Border Work: Resituating Twentieth-Century Latin American and Caribbean Women Writers

By Etcheverry, Gabrielle | Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Border Work: Resituating Twentieth-Century Latin American and Caribbean Women Writers


Etcheverry, Gabrielle, Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies


Nicole Roberts and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw, eds.

Border Crossings: A Trilingual Anthology of Caribbean Women Writers

Kingston, Jamaica: U of the West Indies P, 2011, 266 pp.

Madeline Camara Betancourt, translated by David Frye

Cuban Women Writers: Imagining a Matria

New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, 191 pp.

Lady Rojas Benavente

Canto Poetico a Capella de las Escritoras Peruanas de 1900 a 1960

Lima: Editatu Editores, 2010, 473 pp.

Bringing attention to the work of Latin American and Caribbean authors who work on the margins of mainstream global and national publishing circuits is no easy task. The challenge is doubly hard, one could argue, when said authors are women writing outside of or against the norms of their social and cultural milieu or working in "minor" or multiple languages. Three recent works on women authors from the region address these challenges both implicitly and explicitly while at the same time highlighting the impressive artistic and social contributions many of these authors have made over the course of their careers. While these three studies are vastly different in style and scope, their shared focus on women writers reminds us of the continued saliency--and slipperiness--of feminist literary critique. A multilingual anthology of Caribbean-born writers, a sketch of an alternate literary history focusing on dissident women writers in Cuba, and a comprehensive study of Peruvian women authors and cultural workers from the early to mid 20th century, these texts provide an excellent insight into the lives and works of the writers under study.

According to editors Nicole Roberts and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw, the trilingual nature of their anthology of Caribbean women writers sets it apart from other anthologies of women authors from the region. The collection features six short stories by writers from Jamaica, Trinidad, Guadeloupe, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Haiti, all born between the early 1940s and the mid 1950s, and the selected texts display a broad range in content and narrative voice. Given the anthology's geographical and thematic scope, its trilingualism is indeed one of its defining features and is a welcome contribution to the study of Caribbean women's literature. In their Introduction the editors point to the linguistic borders (or boundaries) faced by Caribbean writers and the scholars of their work when attempting to create a dialogue across the many languages of the region. By choosing to provide texts in three major languages of the Caribbean--English, Spanish, and French--the editors and translators have taken a great step in crossing these borders and have given their readers the tools to follow suit. As they signal early on, many of their selected writers do not necessarily fit into a single linguistic or national category, making the appearance of their work in translation even more important. Since location (including dislocation and multiple locations) and identity both inside and outside of the Caribbean are some of the themes connecting a number of these short stories, attention to the importance of cross-cultural linguistic communication not only fills a gap in Caribbean literary scholarship but also in discussions of diaspora, transnationalism, and multiculturalism.

The texts are organized by language of origin followed by the translations in the two other languages. The collection begins with two stories by the English-language authors, followed by two texts from the Francophone writers, and ends with two stories by the Hispanophone authors. Thematically, many of the stories in this anthology touch on geographical and social location (and how these are often related). This theme is approached in a number of ways, but primarily through the protagonists' experiences of isolation through linguistic, class, and racial differences, migration from the country to the city and from colony to metropole, and through socially imposed cultural and gender roles. …

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