Mas Alla del Boom Latino: Nuevas Direcciones En El Campo De la Literatura Latina Estadounidense

By García-Avello, Macarena | Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos, June 2019 | Go to article overview

Mas Alla del Boom Latino: Nuevas Direcciones En El Campo De la Literatura Latina Estadounidense


García-Avello, Macarena, Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos


Beyond the Latina Boom: New Directions within the Field of US Latina Literature

In Redreaming America (2005), Debra Castillo refers to the increasing visibility of Latinos/as in the 1980s and 1990s as a Latin boom in popular culture and literary studies. She specifically highlights the contributions of US Latina writers like Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, Cristina García and Esmeralda Santiago to the emergence of a literary boom that became particularly successful at creating a discursive space for the construction of subjectivities that had previously been silenced. Beyond the significance of the US Latina literary boom that marked the 1980s and 1990s, this article aims to identify a group of lesser-known female writers that have given a new direction to US Latina literature in the twenty-first century. Therefore, my research explores a major shift in US Latina literature that distinguishes the canonical authors from a new generation of writers whose work remains largely unknown. To carry out this task, I have selected three canonical Latina boom novels: Cisneros's The House on Mango Street (1984), Alvarez's How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) and Garcia's Dreaming in Cuban (1992). These will be contrasted with the twenty-first century texts Soledad (2001), by Angie Cruz, Days of Awe (2001), by Achy Obejas, and Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties (2004), by Felicia Luna Lemus.

In Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature (2000), Sonia Saldívar-Hull examines the different ways in which cross-border feminists challenge the power dynamics that exert material and discursive pressures on Latina subjectivities. Taking this into account, I will argue that the three Latina boom novels mentioned in the preceding paragraph can be studied within the theoretical framework that Gloria Anzaldúa establishes in Borderlands/La frontera: The New Mestiza (1987). I will start, therefore, by offering an overview of Anzaldúa's epistemology and how the literary texts of the Latina boom can be read through such a lens. I will then turn to an analysis of the selected twenty-first century works in order to illustrate how they differ from their predecessors. While Anzaldúa remains a major influence, the latest generation of writers focuses specifically on her contribution to queer theory rather than her concepts of the "new mestiza" or the "consciousness of the borderlands" (1987, 77). My contention is that while the US Latina literary boom might have sought synthesis or resolution through the creation of the third space associated with Anzaldúa's consciousness of the borderlands, these twenty-first century female writers offer representations of nonnormative sexualities that take indeterminacy and ambiguity to a limit that defies all resolution.

Anzaldúa understands the borderlands not only as a geographical space dividing Mexico and the United States, but as a metaphor for the interstices where multiple cultures, languages and worlds collide. Mestizas are left stranded in-between, facing several forms of oppression as women and as members of a minority group. In other words, discrimination against them comes from the dominant culture, as well as from their own ethnic group, which turns them, according to Ana Castillo, into "countryless women" (1995, 40). Anzaldúa refers to the plight of the mestiza when she describes her as "petrified, she can't respond, her face caught between los intersticios, the spaces between the different worlds she inhabits" (1987, 20; italics in the original). As a result, life in the borderlands is fraught with tension, ambivalence and contradictions, thus becoming--in Anzaldúa's words--"a struggle of flesh, a struggle of borders, an inner war" (1987, 21). Anzaldúa not only denounces the predicament of the mestiza but, more importantly, she displays how her anxiety and oppression can be confronted and endured through the creation of a discursive space that embraces the conflicts and ambiguities of living in-between: "living in a state of psychic unrest, in a Borderland, is what makes poets write and artists create [. …

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