Beneath the Shadow of the Red Rock: A Novel With a Critical Introduction and an Afterword
MetadataShow full item record
This scholarly-creative dissertation uses a decolonizing storytelling methodology to investigate the 1979 Church Rock uranium spill near Gallup, New Mexico, where an open-air uranium waste pond breached its earth dam, releasing over 1,000 tons of radioactive mill waste and 93 tons of tailings into the Río Puerco. Contaminants traveled over eighty miles downstream, poisoning ground water, livestock, and sacred land primarily on Navajo-Diné lands. In the decades since, a full waste cleanup has never been conducted, families have remained on their poisoned homelands, and the spill’s health effects have claimed many lives. A scholarly introduction disrupts a singular American ecocritical genealogy by disentangling the linkages between settler colonialism, gender, spatiality, and race among those affected by uranium mining along the northwestern corridor of New Mexico. This introduction also presents postcolonial ecology and alternative cartography as well as characteristics of Indigenous and Chicana literary production, and affect theory in its abilities to re-member the spectral, racialized female subject. The creative portion of the dissertation is a novel, which deploys a decolonizing storytelling methodology to focus on the wellbeing of an Indigenous-Chicano family and its community, in particular its Chicana-Indigenous narrator, through an enactment of slow violence that leads up to the uranium spill, documents the dissolution of the family, and points to the spill’s (after)effects. The novel elevates community and kinship, communal ties to the land, and tradition-based knowledge as central tenets of environmental justice movements. The novel also challenges concepts of Latin familism such as collectivism and interdependence that typically constitute an ethics of care and caring. An afterword presents my own process as a novelist. Finally, a creative nonfiction essay presents my own process as a novelist and offers some pedagogical implications for classroom discussions about the novel. It also discusses shared similarities with the more traditionally defined area of literary cartography, specifically the prevailing notion of the story as a cartography of discovery. Rather, I argue that alternative cartographies are less about discovery and more about excavating the stories already sedimented within disenfranchised communities, the land itself, and the re-member bodies of formerly spectral, racialized female characters.
Bartlett, Catherine Angela (2016). Beneath the Shadow of the Red Rock: A Novel With a Critical Introduction and an Afterword. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from