Date of Award

Spring 5-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Rei Magosaki, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Joanna Levin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Justine Van Meter, Ph.D.


This thesis explores two underexplored works of gentrification literature—Paula Fox’s novel, Desperate Characters (1970) and Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s short story collection, Sabrina & Corina (2019). Desperate Characters offers a nuanced and critical examination of characters with privilege who move into Brooklyn in the 1960s, which involves the displacement of Black and Latinx communities; Fajardo-Anstine’s collection introduces Denver as a site of dramatic gentrification in the new century, by portraying Latinx characters from older neighborhoods who must adjust to the disintegration and cohesiveness of their communities in the face of gentrification. In my discussion of these works, I draw from pre-existing scholarship as necessary to discuss how the writers use language which reframes gentrification within displacements involved in a longer history of settler colonialism in the U.S. In Fox’s novel, newly-arrived gentrifiers, the Bentwoods, engage in a new iteration of conquest in the urban frontier, often frustrated by realities which undermine their aestheticized ideal. The novel maintains an uneasy tone about those who are causing displacement of others throughout, while Fox’s language likens the endeavor to imperialist expansion of European powers. The history of Indigenous displacement is made more directly visible in Fajardo-Anstine’s narratives, which include characters who are descendants of people first shaped by the Spanish colonial expansion in North America, prior to nineteenth-century U.S. cultivation of the American West. The themes of frontier and westward expansion manifest in new ways, so that the displacement of underprivileged communities can also be seen as a form of modern-day settler colonialism. By highlighting these works, this thesis situates gentrification within a longer history of colonization, and centers the conflict of gentrification presented through opposing perspectives.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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