For Los Angeles, with love
The Virgin of Flames
in Chris Abani
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This chapter investigates the novel The Virgin of Flames. Through the character of Black, an African-Salvadoran Angelino, Abani explores the city of Los Angeles and its geographic but also identitarian margins. Madly in love with a transgender Mexican stripper, friend to an illegal African immigrant owner of an abattoir, and living atop of the Ugly Story, a bar and tattoo parlour owned by his Jewish friend Iggy, Black’s identitarian search talks of religion, solitude, and the magic yet damnation of ‘becoming’. The body is at the centre of Abani’s and Black’s investigation in this work, which concludes with the mystery of a ‘Marian’ transformation. The protagonist’s body, burning atop of his home, is welcomed by the Chicano crowd as a miracle, which urges the reader to reflect on the limit between one’s self and the other, individual struggles and communitarian values and meanings.


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