Drawing from Black Latinx and feminist thought to place Latinx Studies and medical/health humanities in conversation, this project asks, what are the medical and colonial histories, personal and collective, that inform patients’ perceptions of illness and Western biomedicine? What happens in cases when Latinx patients have internalized historical forms of medical violence, and what are the means by which Latinx patients construct their healing through narrative? These questions are grounded in material conditions with special concerns for the well-being of Latinx patients, but they are explored via a historically and culturally informed literary analysis of Jasminne Méndez’s Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e (Night-Blooming), a personal illness narrative composed of poems and lyrical essays that portrays, among other health conditions, Méndez’s life with Scleroderma, Lupus, and Raynaud’s disease. Offering a close reading of Night-Blooming’s biomedical critiques alongside the ecological language, metaphors, and formal structure she employs to describe her illness, the author argues that narratives such as Night-Blooming require us to travel into the colonial ecologies of illness, environmental characteristics, practices, and rhetoric in medical settings that evoke colonial encounters from within and beyond the strict boundaries of healthcare facilities. This essay also follows in the passages of Méndez’s figurative travels to the island of Hispaniola as she works to recover her language, health, and Black roots. Acknowledging the ways Méndez’s chronic illness and biomedicine distort her (textual) body, psychiatric health, and language becomes necessary to appreciate Méndez’s composting aesthetics of illness, healing work that involves a struggle to recover that which is painful and deteriorating for life-affirming and life-sustaining purposes. I suggest that by enacting an aestheticization of illness alongside experiences of pain, Méndez uses Night-Blooming as a conduit to theorize about the potential for transforming human suffering from chronic illness into a means toward cultivating life.

You do not currently have access to this content.