Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between


Invention is synonymous with both discovery and exploration. In Autobiography of Red, the theme of discovery runs throughout the book but is also tied to the exploration of South America and the use of the Quechua language. Geryon, a Greek, is exploring Argentina when he encounters his ex-lover Herakles and winds up going on a trip to Peru. Through his explorations of Peru and Argentina, Geryon seems to find more peace in his state as a “man in transition.” (60) Perhaps his sense of discovery is also inadvertently connected to the inventive use of Quechua. The history of this language has parallels to Geryon’s experience; it was almost destroyed (by the Spanish), but ultimately survived and is still widely spoken in Peru and Bolivia. Likewise, Geryon was almost destroyed by his lover but, towards the end of the book, seems to make steps towards spreading his own wings through encouragement. This can be evidenced in when Ancash tells Geryon that he “wants to see you use those wings.” (144) His encouragement seems to follow the path of Carson’s use of Quechua. This language is beginning to make a comeback in Peru and Bolivia through governmental backing but in Autobiography of Red, Herakles even sings in Quechua. (113) To use this language in her book, Carson is truly thinking beyond the typical paradigm of the use of Spanish and the normal experience to dive into the more hidden layer of languages and to tie the experiences of Geryon toQuechua.


  1. Bringing up the theme of discovery in your blog post made me think of my own post, “Photographs”. While reading your post, my mind immediately went to self-discovery and self-exploration, which I discussed in my writing. However, my post was centered around Geryon’s self-discovery of his identity through his photographs instead of Geryon physically discovering or exploring. I think the “hidden layers of language” you mention pertain to these different applications of the word and the themes of discovery as well. I believe our posts are connected because as you said, through his exploration of Peru and Argentina Geryon seems to find peace in himself and I agree he discovered something about his identity through these explorations, as he did through his photographs.

  2. Carson’s use of the Quechua language is indeed a marvel. I find it admirable the research that went into using the language as well as incorporating some history along with the language and culture of Peru. The parallels between the Quechua language and Geryon are also well placed. As you discussed the “hidden layer of languages” I find parallels to the hidden layers of Geryon that he is yet to discover.

  3. I like your comparison of self-discovery to the Quechua language and how the background of the language fits so neatly into Geryon’s. The way you describe the (near) extinction of the language made me think of the topic of erasure we talked about in class. Identities, or in this case languages, that are oppressed or repressed by a majority and are thus losing their voice in the overall picture of the world. But just like you describe Quechua having a comeback, I believe that erased or oppressed identities are also being rediscovered and given a voice.

  4. paintstarsincolor

    November 7, 2018 at 11:43 am

    I completely agree with you – Geryon did seem to be more accepting of himself at the end of the novel. What aspects of his journey in Peru and Argentina do you think made him find peace with himself? I think that by exploring different cultures, the queerness of new narratives, that Geryon discovered that no one can tell him what checkmarks he must fill in order to be x, y, and z, even that it is better to not be what is expected. I also think that Ancash definitely aided in opening Geryon’s eyes to this new perspective through his encouragement to explore his culture, Quechua and various landscapes, and his acceptance and awe of Geryon’s wings.

  5. I love your analysis of the text, especially your discussion of the use of Quechua and its history. I think it is important to see Quechua as an indigenous language of native people who have been othered and colonized in Central and South America. Geryon, too, has been othered throughout his life, or at least feels this way. He stands out as a little red monster, also symbolic of “redness” often associated with indigenous people in the Americas. I love the beautiful and hopeful image you provide in writing about both the Quechua language and Geryon making a comeback- I think this is really symbolic of anyone that has been erased from history including minority groups and queer people.

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