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Reviewed by:
  • The Latina/o Midwest Reader by Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez
  • Delia Fernández
Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez, Santiago R. Vaquera-Vásquez, and Claire F. Fox, eds. The Latina/o Midwest Reader. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017. 352 pp. $28.00 (paper).

Scholars, political pundits, and even some of its residents have long perceived the Midwest as representative of the "real America," creating a popular narrative that touts the region as the country's "heartland." It is oft en imagined as a white, rural, and largely conservative space. The Latina/o Midwest Reader provides 352 pages of evidence that a deeper look at the region is needed and that this examination can overturn such beliefs. This interdisciplinary reader offers historical and contemporary proof that Latinos have long inhabited the Midwest—not just the Southwest or the East Coast—and have practiced placemaking strategies that shaped the region according to their needs and desires. Leading scholars offer their knowledge for one the first books of its kind on this topic.

The Reader contains an introduction, afterword, and eighteen chapters split into five parts that cover the transformation of the Midwest into Latino space; labor migration and settlement; education; performance art and public spaces; and social movements. The editors' introduction provides the broad strokes with pertinent details of Latino midwestern history. It alone is [End Page 215] enough to orient the most casual reader with the topic. Subsequent sections and chapters branch off to complicate, extend, and add to the stories that scholars tell about the Midwest.

With ease, in a single, rich volume, the editors bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars—from performance studies, history, sociolinguistics, and quantitative and qualitative social sciences—to shed light on the intersecting Latino narratives of the Midwest. Rural Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska get just as much attention as the region's metropolises, Chicago and Detroit. At the same time, the depth of this work weaves together the histories and contemporary contexts of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and South and Central Americans—albeit in solitary pieces, focused on one ethnic group or one location that make an overlap harder to find.

One of the greatest interventions this anthology makes is the humanization of the Midwest's Latino laborers. Oft en imagined as farmworkers and nothing more, the book's chapters show how Latinos came and continue to come to the region because of private companies' and statesponsored programs' recruitment efforts. In particular, the authors detail the various forms of discrimination Latinos faced and still experience. Various chapters, for example, chronicle the difficult time Latinos had finding adequate housing and recreational spaces. Others discuss the pressures of assimilation that stigmatize the use of Spanish in certain places in the Midwest. As highlighted in the section on social movements, Latinos worked to transform these kinds of inhospitable places. Groups such as Latino Mennonites in Indiana, farmworkers in Iowa, and the Young Lords Organization in Chicago represent resistance to these conditions. Lastly, this volume shows that the Midwest is and can be host to Latino creatives, filmmakers, and drag performers. Two chapters center, respectively, on Ana Mendieta's film The Black Angel and legendary drag performer Ketty Teanga. Unlike the homogenous narratives of Latinos as workers, this work shows us that Latinos are multifaceted.

Theresa Delgadillo and Janet Weaver's chapter, "Work, Coalition, and Advocacy: Latinas Leading in the Midwest," will interest those invested in the intersection of history and gender. It documents women's roles in the social and political movements in Kansas, Iowa, and Wisconsin that led to greater gender equality throughout the twentieth century. Weaver is an archivist at the University of Iowa where she has created the Mujeres Latinas Project of the Iowa Women's Archive. While she and Delgadillo both draw [End Page 216] on oral histories, Weaver also uses documentation from the Mujeres Latinas Project. Included in this chapter are pictures from Mexican families in Kansas at the turn of the twentieth century, marking their historical presence in that state. Together, the authors show how the Midwest is and has been an area where the lives of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and South and Central Americans intersected...