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The publication of Sanyika Shakur's Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member in 1993 generated a huge amount of excitement in literary circles--New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani deemed it a "shocking and galvanic book"--and set off a new publishing trend of gang memoirs in the 1990s. The memoirs showcased tales of violent confrontation and territorial belonging but also offered many of the first journalistic and autobiographical accounts of the much-mythologized gang subculture.In The Culture and Politics of Contemporary Street Gang Memoirs, Josephine Metcalf focuses on three of these memoirs--Shakur's Monster; Luis J. Rodriguez's Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.; and Stanley "Tookie" Williams's Blue Rage, Black Redemption--as key representatives of the gang autobiography. Metcalf examines the conflict among violence, thrilling sensationalism, and the authorial desire to instruct and warn competing within these works. The narrative arcs of the memoirs themselves rest on the process of conversion from brutal, young gang bangers to nonviolent, enlightened citizens.
Metcalf analyzes the emergence, production, marketing, and reception of gang memoirs. Through interviews with Rodriguez, Shakur, and Barbara Cottman Becnel (Williams's editor), Metcalf reveals both the writing and publishing processes. This book analyzes key narrative conventions, specifically how diction, dialogue, and narrative arcs shape the works. The book also explores how the memoirs are consumed. This interdisciplinary study--fusing literary criticism, sociology, ethnography, reader-response study, and editorial theory--brings scholarly attention to a popular, much-discussed, but understudied modern expression.
Cultural Politics and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrά's Historia de la Nueva Mexico, 1610
In this engaging study Genaro Padilla enters into Villagrá’s epic poem of the Oñate expedition to reveal that the soldier was no mere chronicler but that his writing offers a subtle critique of the empire whose expansion he seems to be celebrating. A close reading of the rhetorical subtleties in the poem, Padilla argues, reveals that Villagrá surreptitiously parodies the King and Viceroy for their failures of vision and effectively dismantles Oñate as the iconic figure he has become today. Padilla’s study is not simply a close reading of this challenging work; it is also a lucid critique of our modern engagement with foundational documents, cultural celebrations, and our awareness of our relationship with New Mexico’s complicated multicultural legacies.
Gender, Nation, and Self-Fashioning in US Mexicana and Chicana Literature and Art
Poet, Priest, and Artist
New Mexico's first Franciscan priest, Fray Angélico Cheavez (1910-1996) is known as a prolific historian, a literary and artistic figure, and an intellectual who played a vital role in Santa Fe's community of writers. The original essays collected here explore his wide-ranging cultural production: fiction, poetry, architectural restoration, journalism, genealogy, translation, and painting and drawing. Several essays discuss his approach to history, his archival research, and the way in which he re-centers ethnic identity in the prevalent Anglo-American master historical narrative. Others examine how he used fiction to bring history alive and combined visual and verbal elements to enhance his narratives. Two essays explore Chávez's profession as a friar. The collection ends with recollections by Thomas E. Chávez, historian and Fray Angélico's nephew. <br /> <br />Readers familiar with Chávez's work as well as those learning about it for the first time will find much that surprises and informs in these essays.
Part of the Pasó por Aquí Series on the Nuevomexicano Literary Heritage
Narrative, Time, and Identity
The literary archive of the U.S.-Mexican War (1846–1848) opens to view the conflicts and relationships across one of the most contested borders in the Americas. Most studies of this literature focus on the war’s nineteenth-century moment of national expansion. In The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War, Jaime Javier Rodríguez brings the discussion forward to our own moment by charting a new path into the legacies of a military conflict embedded in the cultural cores of both nations. Rodríguez’s groundbreaking study moves beyond the terms of Manifest Destiny to ask a fundamental question: How do the war’s literary expressions shape contemporary tensions and exchanges among Anglo Americans, Mexicans, and Mexican Americans. By probing the war’s traumas, anxieties, and consequences with a fresh attention to narrative, Rodríguez shows us the relevance of the U.S.-Mexican War to our own era of demographic and cultural change. Reading across dime novels, frontline battle accounts, Mexican American writings and a wide range of other popular discourse about the war, Rodríguez reveals how historical awareness itself lies at the center of contemporary cultural fears of a Mexican “invasion,” and how the displacements caused by the war set key terms for the ways Mexican Americans in subsequent generations would come to understand their own identities. Further, this is also the first major comparative study that analyzes key Mexican war texts and their impact on Mexico’s national identity.
Juan Garcia Ponce and the Writing of Modernity
At face value, the concept of modernity seems to reference a stream of social and historical traffic headed down a utopian one-way street named “progress.” Mexico’s Ruins examines modernity in twentieth-century Mexican culture as a much more ambiguous concept, arguing that such a single-minded notion is inadequate to comprehend the complexity of modern Mexico’s national projects and their reception by the nation’s citizenry. Instead, through the trope of modernity as ruin, author Raúl Rodríguez-Hernández explores the dilemma presented by the etymology of “ruins”: a simultaneous falling down and rising up, a confluence of opposing forces at work on the skyline of the metropolis since 1968. He focuses on artists and writers of the generación de medio siglo, like Juan García Ponce, and envisions both the tales of modernity and their storytellers in a new light. The arts, literature, and architecture of twentieth-century Mexico are all examined in this cross-cultural and interdisciplinary book.
Representing Mixed Identities in the Americas, 1850-2000
Working from literary and historical accounts of mulattas, mestizas, and creoles, Bost analyzes a tradition, dating from the nineteenth century, of theorizing identity in terms of racial and sexual mixture. By examining racial politics in Mexico and the United States; racially mixed female characters in Anglo-American, African American, and Latina narratives; and ideas of mixture in the Caribbean, she ultimately reveals how the fascination with mixture often corresponds to racial segregation, sciences of purity, and white supremacy. The racism at the foundation of many nineteenth-century writings encourages Bost to examine more closely the subtexts of contemporary writings on the "browning" of America.
Original and ambitious in scope, Mulattas and Mestizas measures contemporary representations of mixed-race identity in the United States against the history of mixed-race identity in the Americas. It warns us to be cautious of the current, millennial celebration of mixture in popular culture and identity studies, which may, contrary to all appearances, mask persistent racism and nostalgia for purity.
Essays on Chicano Literary History, Genre, and Borders
Once relegated to the borders of literature—neither Mexican nor truly American—Chicana/o writers have always been in the vanguard of change, articulating the multicultural ethnicities, shifting identities, border realities, and even postmodern anxieties and hostilities that already characterize the twenty-first century. Indeed, it is Chicana/o writers’ very in-between-ness that makes them authentic spokespersons for an America that is becoming increasingly Mexican/Latin American and for a Mexico that is ever more Americanized. In this pioneering study, Héctor Calderón looks at seven Chicana and Chicano writers whose narratives constitute what he terms an American Mexican literature. Drawing on the concept of “Greater Mexican” culture first articulated by Américo Paredes, Calderón explores how the works of Paredes, Rudolfo Anaya, Tomás Rivera, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Cherríe Moraga, Rolando Hinojosa, and Sandra Cisneros derive from Mexican literary traditions and genres that reach all the way back to the colonial era. His readings cover a wide span of time (1892–2001), from the invention of the Spanish Southwest in the nineteenth century to the América Mexicana that is currently emerging on both sides of the border. In addition to his own readings of the works, Calderón also includes the writers’ perspectives on their place in American/Mexican literature through excerpts from their personal papers and interviews, correspondence, and e-mail exchanges he conducted with most of them.
Cognitive Mappings of Contemporary Chicano/a Fiction
Chicano/a fiction is often understood as a literature of resistance to the dominant U.S. Anglo culture and society. But reducing this rich literary production to a single, binary opposition distorts it in fundamental ways. It conflates literature with life, potentially substituting a literature of protest for social activism that could provoke real changes in society. And it overlooks the complex range of responses to Anglo society that actually animates Chicano/a fiction. In this paradigm-shifting book, Patrick L. Hamilton analyzes works by Rudolfo Anaya, Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez, Rolando Hinojosa, Arturo Islas, John Rechy, Alfredo Véa, and Helena María Viramontes to expand our understandings of the cultural interactions within the United States that are communicated by Chicano/a fiction. He argues that the narrative ethics of “resistance” within the Chicano/a canon is actually complemented by ethics of “persistence” and “transformation” that imagine cultural differences within the United States as participatory and irreducible to simple oppositions. To demonstrate these alternative ethics, Hamilton adapts the methodology of cognitive mapping; that is, he treats the chosen fictional texts as mental maps that are constructed around and communicative of the narrative’s ethics. As he reads these cognitive maps, which envision Chicano/a culture as being part of U.S. society rather than as “resistant” and separate, Hamilton asserts that the authors’ conception of cultural difference speaks more usefully to current sociopolitical debates, such as those about gay marriage and immigration reform, than does the traditional “resistant” paradigm.