- Landscapes of Writing in Chicano Literature ed. by Imelda Martin-Junquera
Ecotheory studies categories of human commitment to the natural world in order to demonstrate how various social and cultural norms exert unjust dominance over minority groups and women as a result of different power structures and numerous associations made between nature and those groups. While there exists a long tradition of representing women as irrational, emotional, and mystified beings driven by their biological impulses, ethnic minorities have been similarly represented as barbarians, lustful beasts, or childlike creatures who need to be controlled or tampered. The consequences of these depictions are far-reaching for both women and ethnic minorities. Both groups have been discriminated against and exploited by white men on the basis of their assumed superiority resulting from their rationality, capability of directing others, and rootedness in culture, which Western civilization places above nature. Moreover, as indicated by the postulations of the Christian tradition and the Biblical order, nature was to be conquered and all life forms, due to their inferiority, could be used by man according to his will. Ecophilosophy advocates, like many First Nations and indigenous cultures, believe that the alternative worldview that values the earth as a sacred place, embraces all life forms as valuable, and recognizes human beings' dependency on the natural environment is not only [End Page 346] desirable, but achievable. Yet, it requires a profound change in our mentality and an acknowledgement of the fact that in order to end patriarchal systems and privilege hierarchies, women, minorities, feminist scholars, and ecological activists need to work together to include local and minority cultures and their spiritualities in mainstream discourse, and make interdependencies of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality visible. In order to achieve environmental justice, liberating and empowering strategies must be as inclusive as possible, thus celebrating the diversity of both human and natural world. Gloria Anzaldúa called that idea the theory of inclusivity, or New Tribalism, in which rejecting the model based on binary oppositions we have to "leave our safe Self and look through the eyes of the Other," thus accepting the fluidity and flexibility of our identity and the concept of mestizaje. Once we adopt the theory of inclusivity, "the whole world may become un pueblo" (Anzaldúa 568).
These and other aspects are dealt with in the book under review, which is a collection of eighteen interdisciplinary essays written by a number of prominent European and American scholars. All of the papers in the study revolve around broadly understood concept of a landscape as it is reflected in the variety of Chicano/a works. They comprise short stories, novels, and poetry, as well as films and theoretical approaches. The authors of essays included in the volume examine diverse "physical, ideological, symbolical and spiritual" (1) aspects of landscape from the perspectives of ecofeminism and ecocrticism. At the same time, the writers under discussion represent the whole panorama of Chicano/a literature.
Dealing with the recurrent interrelationship between nature and culture in Chicano/a literature the collection fills the gap in "the apparent lack of diversity in ecocritical studies that analyze literary works" (1). Therefore, the texts included in Landscapes contribute to the broader understanding of, first, the role of minority literature in ecotheory, and second, the ideas of space in both rural and urban settings and landscapes of power in the Chicano/a context.
The volume is divided into three major parts. The first part discusses female authors; the second examines male authors; and the third is devoted to more theoretical and linguistic issues. I must admit that this division is very clear, and allows ideas to flow efficiently from one text to another. As a result, Landscapes of Writing in Chicano Literature reads almost as a monograph, and not as a collection of essays, because at the moment one author leaves a certain topic or issue, the next one picks it up smoothly and continues his/her message.
The first part features several essays on Sandra Cisneros's writings. For example, Elisabeta Careri discusses...