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Telling Border Life Stories Cover

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Telling Border Life Stories

Four Mexican American Women Writers

Donna M Kabalen de Bichara

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.

Territories of History Cover

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Territories of History

Humanism, Rhetoric, and the Historical Imagination in the Early Chronicles of Spanish America

By Sarah H. Beckjord

Sarah H. Beckjord’s Territories of History explores the vigorous but largely unacknowledged spirit of reflection, debate, and experimentation present in foundational Spanish American writing. In historical works by writers such as Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, Bartolomé de Las Casas, and Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Beckjord argues, the authors were not only informed by the spirit of inquiry present in the humanist tradition but also drew heavily from their encounters with New World peoples. More specifically, their attempts to distinguish superstition and magic from science and religion in the New World significantly influenced the aforementioned chroniclers, who increasingly directed their insights away from the description of native peoples and toward a reflection on the nature of truth, rhetoric, and fiction in writing history. Due to a convergence of often contradictory information from a variety of sources—eyewitness accounts, historiography, imaginative literature, as well as broader philosophical and theological influences—categorizing historical texts from this period poses no easy task, but Beckjord sifts through the information in an effective, logical manner. At the heart of Beckjord’s study, though, is a fundamental philosophical problem: the slippery nature of truth—especially when dictated by stories. Territories of History engages both a body of emerging scholarship on early modern epistemology and empiricism and recent developments in narrative theory to illuminate the importance of these colonial authors’ critical insights. In highlighting the parallels between the sixteenth-century debates and poststructuralist approaches to the study of history, Beckjord uncovers an important legacy of the Hispanic intellectual tradition and updates the study of colonial historiography in view of recent discussions of narrative theory.

Thinking en español Cover

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Thinking en español

Interviews with Critics of Chicana/o Literature

Jesús Rosales; Foreword by Rolando Hinojosa-Smith

Thinking en español captures conversations with leading Chicana and Chicano literary critics. This unique book consists of interviews with founding members of Chicano criticism conducted by the author, Jesús Rosales, who, through his conversations with leaders such as Luis Leal, María Herrera-Sobek, Tey Diana Rebolledo, and Juan Rodríguez, shows the path of criticism from 1848 to the present.

The twelve critics interviewed for this project share certain characteristics. For each one, Mexico plays an essential role in his or her personal and academic background, and each is bilingual and bicultural, having received formal literary education in Spanish graduate programs. As products of the working class, each scholar here shares a sense of social consciousness and commitment that lends an urgency to their desire to promote Chicano literature and culture at the local, regional, national, and international levels. They serve as a source of inspiration and commitment for future generations of scholars of Chicano literature and leave a lasting legacy of their own. 

Thinking en español legitimizes Chicana/o criticism as an established discipline, and documents the works of some of the most important critics of Chicano literature at the turn of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. This timely book immortalizes literary historical figures and documents the trajectory of Chicano criticism.

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Triangulations

Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity

David J. Vázquez

Just as mariners use triangulation, mapping an imaginary triangle between two known positions and an unknown location, so, David J. Vázquez contends, Latino authors in late twentieth-century America employ the coordinates of familiar ideas of self to find their way to new, complex identities. Through this metaphor, Vázquez reveals how Latino autobiographical texts, written after the rise of cultural nationalism in the 1960s, challenge mainstream notions of individual identity and national belonging in the United States.

In a traditional autobiographical work, the protagonist frequently opts out of his or her community. In the works that Vázquez analyzes in Triangulations, protagonists instead opt in to collective groups—often for the express political purpose of redefining that collective. Reading texts by authors such as Ernesto Galarza, Jesús Colón, Piri Thomas, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Judith Ortiz Cofer, John Rechy, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros, Vázquez engages debates about the relationship between literature and social movements, the role of cultural nationalism in projects for social justice, the gender and sexual problematics of 1960s cultural nationalist groups, the possibilities for interethnic coalitions, and the interpretation of autobiography. In the process, Triangulations considers the potential for cultural nationalism as a productive force for aggrieved communities of color in their struggles for equality.

The Trouble with Sauling Around Cover

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The Trouble with Sauling Around

Conversion in Ethnic American Autobiography, 1965–2002

Madeline Ruth Walker

In The Trouble with Sauling Around, Madeline Walker probes the complex and troubled relationship between ethnicity, society, and religious conversion in late twentieth-century African American and Mexican American autobiography. Religious conversion—the turning away from an old, sinful life toward a new life of salvation—manifests as an intensely personal experience, yet it calls into play a wide variety of social, cultural, economic, racial, political, and psychological forces. Thus, constant change and the negotiation of resistance to and assimilation within the dominant culture have been seminal topics for ethnic Americans, just as the conversion narrative is often a central genre in ethnic writing, particularly autobiographical writing.

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Troubling Nationhood in U.S. Latina Literature

Explorations of Place and Belonging

Maya Socolovsky

This book examines the ways in which recent U.S. Latina literature challenges popular definitions of nationhood and national identity. It explores a group of feminist texts that are representative of the U.S. Latina literary boom of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, when an emerging group of writers gained prominence in mainstream and academic circles. Through close readings of select contemporary Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Cuban American works, Maya Socolovsky argues that these narratives are “remapping” the United States so that it is fully integrated within a larger, hemispheric Americas.

Looking at such concerns as nation, place, trauma, and storytelling, writers Denise Chavez, Sandra Cisneros, Esmeralda Santiago, Ana Castillo, Himilce Novas, and Judith Ortiz Cofer challenge popular views of Latino cultural “unbelonging” and make strong cases for the legitimate presence of Latinas/os within the United States. In this way, they also counter much of today’s anti-immigration rhetoric.

Imagining the U.S. as part of a broader "Americas," these writings trouble imperialist notions of nationhood, in which political borders and a long history of intervention and colonization beyond those borders have come to shape and determine the dominant culture's writing and the defining of all Latinos as "other" to the nation.

Unraveling the Real: The Fantastic in Spanish-American Ficciones Cover

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Unraveling the Real: The Fantastic in Spanish-American Ficciones

In literary and cinematic fictions, the fantastic blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. Lacking a consensus on definition, critics often describe the fantastic as supernatural, or similar to, but quite different from fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism.

 

In Unraveling the Real Cynthia Duncan provides a new theoretical framework for discussing how the fantastic explores both metaphysical and socially relevant themes in Spanish American fictions. Duncan deftly shows how authors and artists have used this literary genre to convey marginalized voices as well as critique colonialism, racism, sexism, and classism. Selecting examples from the works of such noted writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Carlos Fuentes, among others, she shows how capacious the concept is, and why it eludes standard definition.

 

Challenging the notion that the fantastic is escapist in nature, Unraveling the Real shows how the fantastic has been politically engaged throughout the twentieth century, often questioning what is real or unreal. Presenting a mirror image of reality, the fantastic does not promoting a utopian parallel universe but rather challenges the way we think about the world around us and the cultural legacy of colonialism.

A User's Guide to Postcolonial and Latino Borderland Fiction Cover

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A User's Guide to Postcolonial and Latino Borderland Fiction

By Frederick Luis Aldama

Why are so many people attracted to narrative fiction? How do authors in this genre reframe experiences, people, and environments anchored to the real world without duplicating “real life”? In which ways does fiction differ from reality? What might fictional narrative and reality have in common—if anything? By analyzing novels such as Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, and Hari Kunzru’s The Impressionist, along with selected Latino comic books and short fiction, this book explores the peculiarities of the production and reception of postcolonial and Latino borderland fiction. Frederick Luis Aldama uses tools from disciplines such as film studies and cognitive science that allow the reader to establish how a fictional narrative is built, how it functions, and how it defines the boundaries of concepts that appear susceptible to limitless interpretations. Aldama emphasizes how postcolonial and Latino borderland narrative fiction authors and artists use narrative devices to create their aesthetic blueprints in ways that loosely guide their readers’ imagination and emotion. In A User’s Guide to Postcolonial and Latino Borderland Fiction, he argues that the study of ethnic-identified narrative fiction must acknowledge its active engagement with world narrative fictional genres, storytelling modes, and techniques, as well as the way such fictions work to move their audiences.

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War Echoes

Gender and Militarization in U.S. Latina/o Cultural Production

Ariana E. Vigil

War Echoes examines how Latina/o cultural production has engaged with U.S. militarism in the post–Viet Nam era. Analyzing literature alongside film, memoir, and activism, Ariana E. Vigil highlights the productive interplay among social, political, and cultural movements while exploring Latina/o responses to U.S. intervention in Central America and the Middle East. These responses evolved over the course of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries—from support for anti-imperial war, as seen in Alejandro Murguia's Southern Front, to the disavowal of all war articulated in works such as Demetria Martinez’s Mother Tongue and Camilo Mejia’s Road from Ar Ramadi. With a focus on how issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality intersect and are impacted by war and militarization, War Echoes illustrates how this country’s bellicose foreign policies have played an integral part in shaping U.S. Latina/o culture and identity and given rise to the creation of works that recognize how militarized violence and values, such as patriarchy, hierarchy, and obedience, are both enacted in domestic spheres and propagated abroad.  

Wild Tongues Cover

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Wild Tongues

Transnational Mexican Popular Culture

By Rita E. Urquijo-Ruiz

An innovative application of four social types—the downtrodden Peladita/Peladito and the zoot-suited Pachuca/Pachuco—that illuminates working-class subjects in a broad spectrum of Mexican and Mexican American cultural production.

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