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Jean Franco. Plotting Women: Gender & Representation in Mexico. New York: Columbia UP, 1991. 251 pp. pb. $15.00.
Magdalena García Pinto. Women Writers of Latin America: Intimate Histories. Austin: U of Texas P, 1991. 258 pp. pb. $13.95.

Jean Franco's Plotting Women and Magdalena García Pinto's Women Writers of Latin America are insightful books whose value is evidenced by their respective publishing histories. Franco's study of Mexican women authors appeared originally in 1989 in hardback, and García Pinto's introduction to and interviews with ten Latin American women authors was first published as Historias íntimas in 1988 by Ediciones del Norte and is now available in translation. Both books should be as welcome in personal libraries as in college courses since they both represent a very desirable (although scarce) example of a critical text which insists on the occupying of front stage center by the object of study, even while the critic herself is in constant dialogue with her companions. Moreover, these two books go beyond their stated goals of "center[ing] on the solitary struggle of isolated women" (Plotting Women) and "captur[ing] the inner voices of these women and the drive and desire that move them to write" (Women Writers of Latin America). Among the further enlightenment offered by the two texts is discussion of the possibility/reality of a feminine aesthetic, the difficulties encountered by women seeking publishing venues, political as well as self-censorship, characteristics of literary genres, and broad-reaching cultural questions. In sum, these two texts offer access not only to historical and literary facts but to insights, both implicit and explicit, into Latin American culture in general. The latter feature is quite valuable since the texts studied and the women's voices heard all ultimately express a consensus that mutual respect rather than adversarial suspicion should guide the production and experience of culture. To paraphrase the words of Luisa Valenzuela (Women Writers), artistic creation is a path of discovery. Franco's and Garcia Pinto's texts facilitate the understanding and interpretation of the expressions of those discoveries.

Plotting Women begins with Franco's words expressing the history of her project and her decision to change from composing a study about Latin American women writers in general to a study which would allow her to "constitute a common ground for a feminist understanding of Mexican culture." In order to do so she focuses on the "violent transitions" witnessed across many centuries in the geographic area known today as Mexico in order to identify shifts in discourse and how women struggled to both express and escape the social emplotment bestowed upon them by the master (male) discourse. The master discourses, which also provide the outline of Franco's study, include The Religious Narrative and The Nation. Against the background of the historical chronology of colonialism and then nationalism, Franco studies in Part One the mystical nuns, confessional literature, and Sor Juana, and concludes that in general, women in the colonial period "belonged to a class of people who had no place in the social text, no story and no power." In Part Two, Franco finds a role for women in the making of the nation state; a role, however, which is very restrictive even up to the present date. Franco refers to Elena Poniatowska's asseveration that in fact "women's literature is part of the literature of the oppressed," a literature presented microcosmically in Plotting Women so as to, as the title suggests, illustrate how women have historically had to work clandestinely or within the interstices of society in order to have a cultural voice. [End Page 501]

The importance of Poniatowska's coining of the phrase "literature of the oppressed" resonates as well throughout Magdalena García Pinto's collection of interviews with a striking palate of exciting minds in Women Writers of Latin America. The interviewed include Isabel Allende, Albalucia Angel, Rosario Ferré, Margo Glantz, Sylvia Molloy, Elvira Orphée, Elena Poniatowska, Marta Traba, Luisa Valenzuela, and Ida Vitale. The latter compose a list of artists that is diverse chronologically, politically, nationally, as well as artistically, a list of women writers...


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