Making it Big
So admiring the struggling writers may not be so much a Chicano(a) phenomena, but more of an “American” (yes, I cringe at the word too) one. “American” culture loves the rags to riches story. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Go hungry. Starving artist. Then make it big.
The greatest example of this is Elvis. You thought I was going to name a writer right?
Elvis, a trucker, raised by a single mom. Poor. Southern. He goes to become one of the biggest icons of the 20the Century and even a big icon today.
But it is that story we love and sometimes manufacture in our own minds. The early media hype of Mike Tyson, was closely tailored after Rocky. Thug taken from the street. A Mickey-like trainer, Cus D'Amato, takes him in and trains him. We just love that story and I think it transfers over into Chicano(a) Literature. I guess our literature is more “American” than we think.
After making it big, there is the fall from grace. At least some of us hope for it.
I think we do this to Cisneros and other writers. In Cisneros case, there is always the criticism that she is only famous for House on Mango Street. Ilan Stavans said that much of her fame was based on a small group of works. Truthfully, I think this did not take the entire writer’s career into account though. We frequently look at writer’s careers as starting with their first book. Sometimes we believe a writer is not really a writer until they have a book.
The One Book
Many famous writers we know are famous simply because of one book. Think about that. Salinger and others. Some even if they published other stuff afterwards, they are still remembered for one book. This crosses cultural lines and is somewhat bothersome to some artists.
Los Lobos have other songs others than “La Bamba.” Their battle with the “La Bamba” stigma has been written about.
We remember the Baroque composer Pachabel for his “Canon in D.” We also remember her for…actually that’s about it.
In one NPR story they were interviewing Barber about his Adagio, and he angrily said, “I’ve written other stuff!”
Lalo Delgado, in an interview I will release later, chuckled when he talk about being known for “Stupid America” as a signature poem. I asked him about the high and lows about having a signature poem. “I wrote other stuff, too,” he said making fun of himself.
Even our statements about being published in
The flock to publish Chicanos in the early 1970s can be compared to the flock to publish “Latino(a)s” today. I think critics will agree, that just like today, when many
On the other side of that, I recently saw Carmen Tafolla in
Back to Cisneros. House was published I think in 1986 on Arte Público. I seem to remember it earlier, but I may be wrong. Many of us do not realize this fact (Downtown Brown has the original on the main page of his website.). We are use to seeing the New York Press paperback edition we all use in classrooms. We forget that House was published by Arte Público, though the largest of the small presses, it is still minuscule in comparison to the
Many people also put down Arte Público because it publishes “nobodies.” But many of these writers and their books will go on to the big time. Cisneros is perhaps the greatest example. Victor Villasenor’s Rain of Gold was also first published at Arte Público. Both of these author’s book were later taken by
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Read more at: http://www.motherjones.com/news/update/2006/12/introducing_reyes.html
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