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Telling Border Life Stories

Four Mexican American Women Writers

Donna M Kabalen de Bichara

Publication Year: 2013

Voices from the borderlands push against boundaries in more ways than one, as Donna M. Kabalen de Bichara ably demonstrates in this investigation into the twentieth-century autobiographical writing of four women of Mexican origin who lived in the American Southwest.

Until recently, little attention has been paid to the writing of the women included in this study. As Kabalen de Bichara notes, it is precisely such historical exclusion of texts written by Mexican American women that gives particular significance to the reexamination of the five autobiographical works that provide the focus for this in-depth study.

“Early Life and Education” and Dew on the Thorn by Jovita González (1904–83), deal with life experiences in Texas and were likely written between 1926 and the 1940s; both texts were published in 1997. Romance of a Little Village Girl, first published in 1955, focuses on life in New Mexico, and was written by Cleofas Jaramillo (1878–1956) when the author was in her seventies. A Beautiful, Cruel Country, by Eva Antonio Wilbur-Cruce (1904–98), introduces the reader to history and a way of life that developed in the cultural space of Arizona. Created over a ten-year period, this text was published in 1987, just eleven years before the author’s death. Hoyt Street, by Mary Helen Ponce (b. 1938), began as a research paper during the period of the autobiographer’s undergraduate studies (1974–80), and was published in its present form in 1993.

These border autobiographies can be understood as attempts on the part of the Mexican American female autobiographers to put themselves into the text and thus write their experiences into existence.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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p. 1-1

Series Page, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Through my participation as a member of the advisory board of Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project I have come into contact with texts that have been lost and recovered. The Recovery Project has focused on the preservation and dissemination of texts from the colonial period until 1960, ...

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pp. 1-9

Contemporary Mexican American autobiography began to be recognized as a “distinct genre” with the publication in 1988 of a special issue of the Americas Review.1 This publication focused on “U.S. Hispanic Autobiography,” and the works of writers such as Oscar Zeta Acosta (The Brown Buffalo), ...

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Chapter 1: Memory and Historical Remembering: The Art of Autobiography and Theoretical Perspectives

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pp. 10-42

The corpus of texts created by Jovita González, Cleofas Jaramillo, Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce, and Mary Helen Ponce are heterogeneous in terms of their narrative form, and all of the narratives involve life writing by a female subject who writes from a border position. That is, the autobiographer presents notions of her ethnic self ...

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Chapter 2: Narrative and Descriptive Discourse: The Autobiographical “I” and Cultural Preconstructs Concerned with Space

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pp. 43-92

The narratives created by González, Jaramillo, Wilbur-Cruce, and Ponce present the reader with four heterogeneous life stories. Each text presents various layers of meaning, the first of which has to do with narrative discourse that is concerned with the autobiographical “I” and the symbolic spaces she occupies during her life course. ...

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Chapter 3: Recovering Cultural and Historical Memory: The Dynamic Quality of Semiotic Structures

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pp. 93-135

In chapter 1, I noted that the border autobiography represents an alternate system of knowledge because it occupies a position outside of the dominant literary repertoire. As such, it represents another type of memory, one that is situated in a semiotic system that involves not only the representation of the autobiographical “I,” but also of the collective “we.” ...

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Chapter 4: The Female Subject and Expressions of Life Experiences: Social Practice and Imaginary Formations

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pp. 136-189

The border autobiographies created by González, Jaramillo, Wilbur- Cruce, and Ponce can be understood as a system of texts that interact dynamically. Each of these narratives provides the reader with information regarding a cultural explosion that affected various semiotic spaces. ...

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pp. 190-200

“I shall speak about women’s writing: about what it will do,” Hélène Cixous says. “Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies—for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. ...


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pp. 201-218

Works Cited

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pp. 219-228


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pp. 229-237

Further Reading, Back Cover

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pp. 249-250

E-ISBN-13: 9781603449502
E-ISBN-10: 1603449507
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603448048

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2013