"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sandra Cisneros is a Sellout!: Our Love Hate Relationship with Successful Chicano Writers, Part I

“Sandra Cisneros is a sellout!” were the words I heard at a conference in the Texas valley as one young Tejana writer said while participating on a panel.

It’s been almost 10 years since I heard those words and it has taken me ten years to ponder them.

It is true, that Sandra Cisneros is one of our divas of Chicano(a) literature. Though they quarreled (or was it their agents), even Ilan Stavans said she’s achieved “divas status.”

But there are many reasons we are to appreciate her more than in anytime in the Chicano(a) Renaissance. I’ll go into that later.

I read several blogs over the last few months that took me back to this topic. The topic is an old one, rusting at the sides of every Chicano(a) writers and literature scholar since the dawn of our renaissance.

The old saying is “not many writers are being published by the major book publishers.” It’s a soulful mourn by a literature genre yearning for an audience. Most people, when they say that, are referring to the New York publishers.

About ten years ago, on the old Chiclit listserv, I said, that not many Chicano(a) writers have made it into the mainstream. That baited a rhetorical question from the late Octavio Romano: “While what is mainstream?”

Looking at the whiteman’s dictionary, Webster is defines “mainstream” as: “a prevailing current or direction of activity or influence.” Oxford defines is as “normal or conventional ideas, attitudes, or activities.” That’s not what I was going for, but oh well.

But in all writers and critics, there is some sense, many times self defined, on what is the “mainstream.”

So that begs the question, do we begin to hate writers once they’ve “made it.”

The Struggling Writer and American Phenomenon

I am a big fan of the struggling writer. I can speak for other critics. I very often look for self-published books or books from small presses to review and spotlight.

This comes from my fondness for the older renaissance writers like Lalo Delgado, whom I was very close to. The self-publishing master grew into a legend with only one time getting a book published in a place outside of a day’s drive of his house. Yet, he became a legend.

Some of it comes from my distaste for the saturation of the big media which is now in the hands of five big corporations. We’ll write more about that later.

I see many of these writers today following in the footsteps of now prominent Chicano(a) writers. When Sandra came to El Paso, I think it was in the late 1980s or early 1990s, she was there for almost a week doing workshops and such. I see many writers in the same mold today. I see this being done by young writers today.

To be continued

Revoluncionarias: One of my favorite picture books

I first bought this book in Mexico, a wonderful book of photos of women in the Mexican Revolution. Kudos to Cinto Puntos for putting it out in English.

Las Soldaderas: Life Blood of the Revolution

Cinco Puntos Press is proud to present the English edition of a remarkable collaboration between Mexico’s best independent press, Ediciones ERA, and Mexico’s Institute of Anthropology and History. The photographs of Las Soldaderas: Women of the Mexican Revolution and Elena Poniatowska’s commentary rescue the women of the Mexican Revolution from the dust and oblivion of history. These are the Adelitas and Valentinas celebrated in famous corridos mexicanos, but whose destiny was much more profound and tragic than the idealistic words of ballads. The photographs remind Poniatowska of the trail of women warriors that begins with the Spanish Conquest and continues to Mexico’s violent revolution.

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