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

Octavio Romano

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Questions for the Dean - Felipe Ortego; More new books in June on Latin America and by Latinos

This is our introduction to a series of questions for the Dean of Chicano Literary Criticism, Felipe de Ortego y Gasca. Our first questions came about from exploration of what is being published by Raza writers in 2010. Amazingly, we found many bilingual children's book, but far more written by non-Chicano(as) and Latinos(as).

Questions for the Dean

1. PF: Dr. Ortego, as you know Pluma Fronteriza started "Libros, Libros" a few years ago on an idea you suggested to Pluma. As I go through finding out what new in Chicana(o) Literature, we find more and more bilingual books for children, but finding more and more of these coming out from White writers than Chicano writers. We've seen an explosion of Chicano and Latino Childrens Lit in the last 15 years. So relating to this topic, can you describe to us what Literatura chicanesca is?

Ortego: As the term has evolved since Francisco Lomeli used it, "literatura chicaniesca" is a work of literature about Chicanos/as by non-Chicano/a writers. Descriptively, the term is useful, provided it's understood that the term is not validation of the work as a "Chicano work."

2. PF: Regarding literature chicaniesca, do authors like your friend John Nichols fall into this category? Joe Hayes?

Ortego: Question 2: Yes, those works about Chicanos by John Nichols and Joe Hayes fall into the category of "literatura chicaniesca," no matter how "Chicano" the works might be, like "Famous All Over Town."

3. PF: After almost 40 years after the exposure of Amado Muro as Chester Seltzer, do you have any reflections about that exposure?

Ortego: I liked Muro/Seltzer's works. He was indeed a remarkable writer who captured the essence of the Chicano experience. Lastima that he had to project himself as a Chicano writer. Having exposed him as a non-Chicano, did not leave me with any satisfaction. I was disappointed. I'm left with the residue of an author of a good work misrepresenting him/herself.

4. PF: Now in the extreme, are you familiar with The Education of Little Tree, the memoir-style novel written by Asa Earl Carter under the pseudonym Forrest Carter? This once Native American Literature gem's author was exposed an an ex-KKK member, speech writer for Alabama Gov. Wallace, and candidate for Alabama governor running on a segregationist platform in 1970? What are you thoughts on this?

Ortego: Here again is a question of "authorial misrepresentation". I'm struck, however, by the alluring power of Chicano (or "other") identity such that it impels "misrepresentation" by non-Chicanos (or non-others).


North Star: A Memoir
Peter Camejo
Haymarket Books (June 1, 2010)

"Peter was a friend, colleague and politically courageous champion of the downtrodden and mistreated of the entire Western Hemisphere."—Ralph Nader

This is the autobiography of a remarkable life. As The New York Times wrote, "A first generation Venezuelan-American . . . Mr. Camejo [spoke] out against the Vietnam War and for the rights of migrant workers. He marched in Selma, Alabama, with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King."

Peter Camejo (1939-2008) founded the California Green Party, won 360,000 votes in his run for governor in 2002, and ran as Ralph Nader's vice presidential candidate in 2004.

Resistance on the Air: Indigenous Radio and the Struggle for Social Justice in Colombia 
(South End Press June 1, 2010 ISBN-13: 978-0896087866), Mario A. Murillo. 

Award-winning journalist Mario A. Murillo introduces the world to Colombia’s popular media movement, a fierce and creative force of change in this war-torn nation, linking the global struggles against media, corporate, and state plutocracy. Voices of Resistance vividly chronicles an indigenous-led, broad-based national effort to effectively transform society through media and organizing.

The storytelling focus in these pages is indigenous radio, particularly the community-built media hub Radio Payu’mat. In one example of grassroots innovation, an indigenous reporter rides alongside a march on a radio-cicleta — a tandem bicycle with a loudspeaker and small transmitter. His bike-radio sends reports back to a student-run radio station, which relays that signal to Radio Payu’mat’s 2,000-watt transmitter. 

As a result, a much larger audience suddenly has access to an event typically ignored by Colombia’s commercial media.

Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits Trilogy: Narrative Geographies 
(Monografías A) (Monografías A) (Tamesis Books June 17, 2010 ISBN-10: 1855662000)
Karen Wooley Martin. 

Allende's very popular novels have attracted both critical approval and opprobrium, often at the expense of genuine analysis. This sophisticated study explores the narrative architecture of Allende's House of the Spirits (1982), Daughter of Fortune (1999), and Portrait in Sepia (2000) as a trilogy, proposing that the places created in these novels subvert the patriarchal norms that have governed politics, sexuality, and ethnicity. 

Rooted in the Foucauldian premise that the history of space is essentially the history of power, and supported by Susan Stanford Friedman's cultural geographies of encounter as well as Gloria Anzaldua's study of borderlands, this study shows that, by rejecting traditional spatial hierarchies, Allende's trilogy systematically deterritorializes the elite while shifting the previously marginalized to the physical and thematic centers of her works. 

This movement provides the narrative energy which draws the reader into Allende's universe, and sustains the 'good story' for which she has been universally acclaimed.

Couture and Consensus: Fashion and Politics in Postcolonial Argentina 
(Cultural Studies of the Americas)(Univ Of Minnesota Press June 25, 2010 ISBN-10: 0816647941)
Regina A. Root

Following Argentina’s revolution in 1810, the dress of young patriots inspired a nation and distanced its politics from the relics of Spanish colonialism. Regina A. Root maps this pivotal and overlooked facet of Argentine cultural history, showing how politics emerged from dress to disrupt authoritarian practices and stimulate creativity in a newly independent nation

Puerto Rican Citizen: History and Political Identity in Twentieth-Century New York City
(Historical Studies of Urban America)(Univ Of Chicago Press June 15, 2010 ISBN-10: 0226796086)
Lorrin Thomas

By the end of the 1920s, just ten years after the Jones Act first made them full-fledged Americans, more than 45,000 native Puerto Ricans had left their homes and entered the United States, citizenship papers in hand, forming one of New York City’s most complex and unique migrant communities. 

In Puerto Rican Citizen, Lorrin Thomas for the first time unravels the many tensions — historical, racial, political, and economic — that defined the experience of this group of American citizens before and after World War II.

Violence in Argentine Literature and Film: 1989-2005 
(Turning Points) (Univ of Calgary Press June 15, 2010 ISBN-10: 1552385043)
Carolina Rocha (Editor), Elizabeth Montes Garces (Editor) 

Why has violence been a predominant topic in contemporary Argentine film and literature? What conclusions can be drawn from the dissemination of violent images and narratives that depict violence in Argentina? In Argentina, the problem of violence is rooted in the country's long experience with authoritarian rule as well as in more recent trends such as the weakening of the state and the rule of law brought about by neo-liberal reforms. 

The 11 essays that make up this collection seek to interpret and analyze the extent to which violence communicates structural inequalities or lines of fissure in contemporary Argentina resulting from the transformations that the state, the economy, and society in general have experienced during the past two decades. 

Applying a variety of critical approaches, the contributors explore violence in Argentine cultural productions as it relates to four broad themes: the body as site of physical violence, the legacies of Argentina's authoritarian past, the collapse of the myth of the Argentine nation, and the current battles over how to define particular 'social and geographical places' in the context of an increasingly violent society.

Defining Latin American Art / Hacia Una Definicion Del Arte Latinoamericano 
(McFarland & Company; Bilingual edition June 6, 2010 ISBN-10: 0786460830)
Dorothy Chaplik. 

This bilingual book describes the numerous elements that have shaped the 20th and 21st century art of Latin America. 

Beginning with the pre-Columbian cultures of Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean Islands, and following historical developments through today, the values and symbols of these early civilizations have remained a constant in much of Latin American art. 

The work gives a brief history of Latin American art, defines the modernist movements and trends that surfaced in Paris in the early 20th century and traces the way Latin American artists adapted the forms to express their own national culture. 

The main section is a list of significant artworks, each accompanied by biographical details from the artist's life, an explanation of the work's subject matter and a discussion of the inspiration and meaning behind it. The work boasts a wide selection of illustrations, including three color inserts, and concludes with a bibliography.

Left Behind: Latin America and the False Promise of Populism 
(University Of Chicago Press June 1, 2010 ISBN-10: 0226184781)
Sebastian Edwards

The political and economic history of Latin America has been marked by great hopes and even greater disappointments. 

Despite abundant resources — and a history of productivity and wealth — in recent decades the region has fallen further and further behind developed nations, surpassed even by other developing economies in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. 

In Left Behind, Sebastian Edwards explains why the nations of Latin America have failed to share in the fruits of globalization and forcefully highlights the dangers of the recent turn to economic populism in the region. 

He begins by detailing the many ways Latin American governments have stifled economic development over the years through excessive regulation, currency manipulation, and thoroughgoing corruption. He then turns to the neoliberal reforms of the early 1990s, which called for the elimination of deficits, lowering of trade barriers, and privatization of inefficient public enterprises — and which, Edwards argues, held the promise of freeing Latin America from the burdens of the past. 

Flawed implementation, however, meant the promised gains of globalization were never felt by the mass of citizens, and growing frustration with stalled progress has led to a resurgence of populism throughout the region, exemplified by the economic policies of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. 

But such measures, Edwards warns, are a recipe for disaster; instead, he argues, the way forward for Latin America lies in further market reforms, more honestly pursued and fairly implemented. As an example of the promise of that approach, Edwards points to Latin America's giant, Brazil, which under the successful administration of President Luis Inácio da Silva (Lula) has finally begun to show signs of reaching its true economic potential. 

As the global financial crisis has reminded us, the risks posed by failing economies extend far beyond their national borders. Putting Latin America back on a path toward sustained growth is crucial not just for the region but for the world, and Left Behind offers a clear, concise blueprint for the way forward.

Tropes of Enlightenment in the Age of Bolivar: Simon Rodriguez and the American Essay at Revolution  
(Vanderbilt Univ Press June 2010 ISBN 9780826516930)
Ronald Briggs

Briggs shines a much-needed light on the writings and life of Simon Rodriguez, early tutor to the hero of Latin American independence Simon Bolivar and an accomplished essayist in his own right. 

The book, released during the bicentennial of the early wars for Latin American independence, boldly places Rodriguez in the pantheon of important writers who influenced philosophical thought during the upheavals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Noah Webster, and Tom Paine. www.vanderbiltuniversitypress.com

Intersecting Inequalities: Women and Social Policy in Peru, 1990-2000 
(Pennsylvania State University Press June 30, 2010 ISBN-10: 0271036702)
Jelke Boesten

As the only male head of state to address the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, Alberto Fujimori projected an image as a promoter of progressive policies to improve the condition of women, especially the poor, in society. 

And indeed the Peruvian government did pursue such policies during his tenure in such areas as poverty relief, population control, and domestic violence. 

These policies are used as case studies in this book to examine the relationship between gender/race/class/ethnic divisions and the state in its project of nation-building. 

This investigation reveals that policy meant to further women's development and emancipation often reproduced the marginality it was supposed to fight and depicts the strategies women developed to negotiate with and challenge the state. 


Ph.D. at UCLA

Just last week, we focused on Alicia Gaspar de Alba. Here a a link to the Ph.D. program that is being implemented under her leadership at UCLA's Chicano Studies Department.Check out the story at the MALCS website.

Chico Lingo

Check out Sergio Troncoso's new post "Illegal is Illegal" on the Chico Lingo blog.

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