- Adela Sloss-Vento: Writer, Political Activist, and Civil Rights Pioneer by Arnoldo Carlos Vento
These days biography is making a comeback. Professional scholars are focusing on the lives of historical actors. One new work by Arnoldo Carlos Vento results in a paean to the memory of his mother, the late Adela Sloss [End Page 126] Vento. Mrs. Vento played a vital role in the Mexican American civil rights struggle from the 1920s through the 1990s, although most of her influence was felt prior to 1970. Her son attempts to capture the importance of her ideas and actions here. In this work he contributes to our knowledge of key women in Mexican American history.
Working at a time when women were generally shunted aside, Sloss-Vento engaged in public actions to improve the lot of Mexican Americans. The author shares with the reader her contribution to the Mexican American civil rights struggle, including aiding with the formation of the League of United Latin American Citizens, and her views of leading issues of the day, such as with the publication of the controversial pamphlet “What Price Wetbacks?,” which caused a rift within the Mexican American community in the 1950s.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part, “The San Juan Phase,” covers Sloss-Vento’s life from 1927–1940s and traces the early influences on her life. The second part, “The Edinburg Phase,” addresses the period from the 1950s through the end of her life. Part III consists of primary documents including selected essays, newspaper articles, and correspondence.
Unfortunately, there is no “connective tissue” to link the two parts of her life, and this is a problem throughout the work. As I read the book I thought that perhaps the saving grace would be the appendices. But even here we see correspondence from her and another section filled with correspondence to her, again, without linkage between them. Indeed, a lot of the documentation appears to have been chosen randomly.
In the end, Mr. Vento has written a book that will help shed some light into the very important life of this civil rights activist. But the definitive book on Mrs. Vento is yet to be written. Such a work would include more depth about her birth, youth, and early influences on her life, none of which is addressed in this work. Adela Sloss Vento deserves a serious and clearly written historical examination. Unfortunately, this is not that book.