Silvia Moreno-Garcia talks about the gothic’s relationship to the ‘racial other’

young woman reads a book

On March 8, author Silvia Moreno-Garcia visited the Canadian Writers in Person series at York to read from and talk about her novel Mexican Gothic. York University Teaching Assistant Dana Patrascu-Kingsley sent the following report to YFile.

Cover of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's book Mexican Gothic
Cover of Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic is a gothic novel that stages, through its feminist protagonist, a critique of colonialism and whiteness. While taking us on a horror-filled journey, it invites us to look at the very real horror of eugenics and colonialism.

“One of the things about older gothic novels is that they have an interesting relationship with whiteness,” Moreno-Garcia says. “There is this fear of the ‘other.’ And there is this racial element of the ‘other’ many times. The horror of some of these gothic novels is not just the horror of the monster, but the horror of the racial other.”

In older Gothic literature, the focus is on “a white person who is trapped by these dangerous, ‘other’ people, who are depicted as backwards and are often brown people, Catholics,” notes Moreno-Garcia. “The white person is supposed to represent modernity and all those good qualities, and these ‘other’ people are awful.”

In Mexican Gothic this dynamic is turned on its head. “The Doyle family is not superior to anyone, they have a lot of issues and they don’t even realize it,” says Moreno-Garcia. “When you think you’re the pinnacle of evolution, you don’t really question a lot of things.” The reader is invited to examine their claims to superiority and challenge them with Noemi Taboada, the female protagonist.

Moreno-Garcia is flipping the dynamic of older gothic novels around, to question “who is the savage and who is the civilized person” in the interactions between the British colonizers and the mixed-race Mexican woman who is trapped in their midst.