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Literature > American Literature > Hispanic American Literature

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Mulattas and Mestizas Cover

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Mulattas and Mestizas

Representing Mixed Identities in the Americas, 1850-2000

Suzanne Bost

In this broadly conceived exploration of how people represent identity in the Americas, Suzanne Bost argues that mixture has been central to the definition of race in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean since the nineteenth century. Her study is particularly relevant in an era that promotes mixed-race musicians, actors, sports heroes, and supermodels as icons of a "new" America. Bost challenges the popular media's notion that a new millennium has ushered in a radical transformation of American ethnicity; in fact, this paradigm of the "changing" face of America extends throughout American history.

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.

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Narratives of Greater Mexico

Essays on Chicano Literary History, Genre, and Borders

By Héctor Calderón

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.

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Of Space and Mind

Cognitive Mappings of Contemporary Chicano/a Fiction

By Patrick L. Hamilton

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.

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Orientalismo en el Modernismo Hispanoamericano

by Araceli Tinajero

Araceli Tinajero's Orientalismo en el modernismo hispanoamericano falls within the present revisionist trend with respect to Spanish American modernism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The text's uniqueness stems from its focus on allusions to images, artifacts, and thought from the East—primarily Japan—found in central and peripheral writings within the Spanish American movement.

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Oshun's Daughters

The Search for Womanhood in the Americas

Vanessa K. Valdés

Examines the ways in which the inclusion of African diasporic religious practices serve as transgressive tools in narrative discourses in the Americas.

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Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins

Waste and Contamination in Contemporary U.S. Ethnic Literatures

John Blair Gamber

In this innovative study, Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins, John Blair Gamber examines urbanity and the results of urban living—traffic, garbage, sewage, waste, and pollution—arguing for a new recognition of all forms of human detritus as part of the natural world and thus for a broadening of our understanding of environmental literature.
 
 
While much of the discourse surrounding the United States’ idealistic and nostalgic views of itself privileges “clean” living (primarily in rural, small-town, and suburban settings), representations of rurality and urbanity by Chicanas/Chicanos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, on the other hand, complicate such generalization. Gamber widens our understanding of current ecocritical debates by examining texts by such authors as Octavia Butler, Louise Erdrich, Alejandro Morales, Gerald Vizenor, and Karen Tei Yamashita that draw on the physical signs of human corporeality to refigure cities and urbanity as natural. He demonstrates how ethnic American literature reclaims waste objects and waste spaces—likening pollution to miscegenation—as a method to revalue cast-off and marginalized individuals and communities. Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins explores the conjunction of, and the frictions between, twentieth-century U.S. postcolonial studies, race studies, urban studies, and ecocriticism, and works to refigure this portrayal of urban spaces.

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Postnationalism in Chicana/o Literature and Culture

By Ellie D. Hernández

In recent decades, Chicana/o literary and cultural productions have dramatically shifted from a nationalist movement that emphasized unity to one that openly celebrates diverse experiences. Charting this transformation, Postnationalism in Chicana/o Literature and Culture looks to the late 1970s, during a resurgence of global culture, as a crucial turning point whose reverberations in twenty-first-century late capitalism have been profound. Arguing for a postnationalism that documents the radical politics and aesthetic processes of the past while embracing contemporary cultural and sociopolitical expressions among Chicana/o peoples, Hernández links the multiple forces at play in these interactions. Reconfiguring text-based analysis, she looks at the comparative development of movements within women’s rights and LGBTQI activist circles. Incorporating economic influences, this unique trajectory leads to a new conception of border studies as well, rethinking the effects of a restructured masculinity as a symbol of national cultural transformation. Ultimately positing that globalization has enhanced the emergence of new Chicana/o identities, Hernández cultivates important new understandings of borderlands identities and postnationalism itself.

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raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine

My Weapon Is My Pen

Selected writings by Raúl R. Salinas

Raúl Salinas is regarded as one of today's most important Chicano poets and human rights activists, but his passage to this place of distinction took him through four of the most brutal prisons in the country. His singular journey from individual alienation to rage to political resistance reflected the social movements occurring inside and outside of prison, making his story both personal and universal. This groundbreaking collection of Salinas' journalism and personal correspondence from his years of incarceration and following his release provides a unique perspective into his spiritual, intellectual, and political metamorphosis. The book also offers an insider's view of the prison rebellion movement and its relation to the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The numerous letters between Salinas and his family, friends, and potential allies illustrate his burgeoning political awareness of the cause and conditions of his and his comrades' incarceration and their link to the larger political and historical web of social relations between dominant and subaltern groups. These collected pieces, as well as two interviews with Salinas—one conducted upon his release from prison in 1972, the second more than two decades later—reveal to readers the transformation of Salinas from a street hipster to a man seeking to be a part of something larger than himself. Louis Mendoza has painstakingly compiled a body of work that is autobiographical, politically insurgent, and representative.

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Reading Chican@ Like a Queer

The De-Mastery of Desire

By Sandra K. Soto

A race-based oppositional paradigm has informed Chicano studies since its emergence. In this work, Sandra K. Soto replaces that paradigm with a less didactic, more flexible framework geared for a queer analysis of the discursive relationship between racialization and sexuality. Through rereadings of a diverse range of widely discussed writers—from Américo Paredes to Cherríe Moraga—Soto demonstrates that representations of racialization actually depend on the sexual and that a racialized sexuality is a heretofore unrecognized organizing principle of Chican@ literature, even in the most unlikely texts. Soto gives us a broader and deeper engagement with Chican@ representations of racialization, desire, and both inter- and intracultural social relations. While several scholars have begun to take sexuality seriously by invoking the rich terrain of contemporary Chicana feminist literature for its portrayal of culturally specific and historically laden gender and sexual frameworks, as well as for its imaginative transgressions against them, this is the first study to theorize racialized sexuality as pervasive to and enabling of the canon of Chican@ literature. Exemplifying the broad usefulness of queer theory by extending its critical tools and anti-heteronormative insights to racialization, Soto stages a crucial intervention amid a certain loss of optimism that circulates both as a fear that queer theory was a fad whose time has passed, and that queer theory is incapable of offering an incisive, politically grounded analysis in and of the current historical moment.

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Redeeming Words

Language and the Promise of Happiness in the Stories of Döblin and Sebald

Probing study of how literature can redeem the revelatory, redemptive powers of language.

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