I really enjoyed almost all the text we had to read for this class. Some of them were very quick to read, like No se lo tragó la tierra, women hollering creek, and and a body to remember with, each chapter in those books had so much to say and was so artistically and well written. I really have to say reading Cisneros’ book has inspired me to write. I had started one 2 years ago but was always stopped because i didn’t like the chronological order or I was just blocked in a spot and couldn’t continue. I really like how authors like Cisneros, Carmen Rodriquez and Rivera play with the order and sometimes you don’t know if the same protagonist follows in all chapters or when exactly something happened.
Ahh what a long way we’ve come from the tedious pink book, which actually turned out to be the least tedious because it provoked the most heated debate. The best aspect of this class was that the books had so much to offer discussion-wise, from the deeper-than-a-parlor-drama Who Would Have Thought It, to the enraptured prose of Marti, to the fragmented and pretzel-like y no se lo trago la tierra, to the visceral, multi-layered and gutsy Cisneros, and the poignant, nuanced tales of Alvarez and Rodriguez. The class had some interesting thoughts to offer on these books, and it was good that we were able to air our thoughts on complex and sometimes sensitive subjects – including immigrant experiences, thoughts on gender relations and sexuality, and personal relations to and interpretations of the texts.
The majority of these books I probably would’ve never read, having heard of none of the authors before except for Marti, but I’m glad I have. The books definitely fleshed out for me what it is to be Chicano, as well as gave me insight into the lives of Latin American immigrants, whether privileged ones that hop back and forth between countries like Alvarez’s characters or those who have been exiled and engage with their home country only through memory like Rodriquez’s characters. Many of the same themes have emerged in these texts, like the importance of language and voice to the self, the importance of carving out a space that belongs to one’s self or one’s people, the fragmentation of identity as a person attempts to assimilate two cultures into one self.
It’s interesting that such a diverse group of writers (in terms of time period, social class, place of origin and gender) were all drawn towards the same themes, I suppose that’s how eternal and pervasive they are. Quite different from our complaints about the character Yolanda, perhaps self-reflexive to a fault, whose experience of dislocation is dramatically expressed as a “violation” that lies “at the center of my art”, Rodriguez talked of her experience of physical and emotional dislocation as almost commonplace. With this in mind, Latin American literature “north of the Rio Grande” is relevant far beyond its own demographic, but for the majority of the world’s population that immigrates, bifurcates, speaks in two tongues, crosses borders, falls in love with the “other,” seeks a better life elsewhere, raises children far from home, doesn’t know where “home” is.
We have covered to much this year, but I really feel like it is all becoming united thematically now that I can look back on what we’ve done. Some of the books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, like How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, some I haven’t as much, like No Se Lo Trago La Tierra. I have to say, Salt of the Earth was one of my favorite parts of the class. I would encourage more films for the class in the future, then again, I might just be lazy. Looking back, hindsight is 20/20 and I can pick out some aspects of the books I may not have noticed as I should have.
Wow! As I sit down at my computer, like I do every Sunday night to write my blog, this evening I have a whole different thought process. It’s hard to believe that this semester is coming to a close, and this is the last blog we will write! I definitely feel like I’m writing this entry with a much different compilation of thoughts in comparison to the beginning of the year. I feel like throughout the semester, I expanded my knowledge on Chicano and Latin American literature as a whole. We read extensively diverse literature, although all of our books seemed to be linked together by similar themes. We saw the difficulties that Chicano’s and Latinos all over the world face, and the challenge with comes with assimilation into any society for someone of any race. I’ve decided to structure this blog by describing my favourite and least favourite books.
My favourite of all of our books for the semester, would coincidentally have to be that of my Wikipedia article: “How the Garcia Girls lost their Accents”. Throughout the book I fell in love with Julia Alvarez’s distinctive style and heartwarming stories. Not only did her stories convey a wide variety of emotions, but it was so pleasant to read and at the same time brought up some signifacnt themes. I almost feel like her book was full of life lessons, which we all can relate to in one way or another. I believe a few people on our class mentioned in their blogs that they could relate quite well to what she wrote.
My least favourite of all the books would probably have to be Woman Hollering Creek. Although I enjoyed it slightly, and a few of the stories made me laugh, I faced the challenge of truly not being able to connect with the book. I found it difficult to read and follow. Maybe this makes me lazy? I’m not sure. I can see women connecting with this book better than men perhaps. I definitely think there are tones of feminism in this book, which is perhaps why. I feel like although Cisneros had an interesting and intriguing writing style, I don’t really understand what she was trying to say with her stories. I could be harsh in saying this, but I just didn’t get this one.
Overall, I’m glad I read all of the books, and I don’t think any of them were a waste of time whatsoever. I enjoyed the different ideas and perspectives people would bring to our class discussions. I think we all made eachother realize and see different sides of the various literature, and I quite liked out debates and talks. Having Carmen Rodriguez come in and discuss her book was also a definite plus! Very inspiring to see an author in the flesh, especially someone so genuine, real and to the point. I have to say, I’ll miss this class! Perhaps not all the Wikipedia editing though…
Well I can hardly believe this is the last blog of the semester! Overall I enjoyed these books, and I definitely learned a lot about Chicano, Latino literature, and I found it all quite interesting. If I were to rate the books in order of preference, one being my favourite and six being my least favourite, this is the order I would choose: 1. “and a body to remember with”, 2. “How the García Girls Lost their Accents”, 3. “Who Would Have Thought It?”, 4. “Woman Hollering Creek”, 5. “Y no se lo tragó la tierra”, and 6. the selections from José Martí.
In the selections written by José Martí, I really appreciated the descriptive imagery he used. I particularly enjoyed reading the last two short stories, “El Terremoto de Charleston”, and “Nueva York Bajo La Nieve”, mainly because his writing style made it so easy to imagine myself as a character within the stories…and I always enjoy when I am able to feel as though I am a part of the story I am reading.
“Y no se lo tragó la tierra” was interesting, and spoke a lot about social injustice especially for Chicanos living in Texas during the 50’s. I ended up reading the English version to gain a better understanding of the story. I thought it was interesting that the protagonist’s resolution to his problems was independence; choosing to do things on his own…I would have been interested to see his life afterwards, and whether or not he was satisfied…
Woman Hollering Creek….ohhhh woman hollering creek! There were so many hours spent writing this Wikipedia article that I gained such a huge appreciation for the work as a whole. One of my sections for the article was looking at the characters within this book…I particularly was impacted by Cleófilas, who thought she knew what she wanted in life, only to later discover disappointment and heartache. This story really jumped out at me and made me reflect on decisions in my own life, and the magnitude of the effects they can have on one’s life.
I loved “Who Would Have Thought It?” simply because it was a fun read. I enjoyed the bits of suspense, the love story, and that it truly was a comedy of errors. I definitely laughed a lot throughout!
“How the García Girls Lost their Accents” was also thoroughly enjoyable, and informative at the same time. I thought it was important to learn more about the lives of Latino immigrants from another country other than Mexico. I found Alvarez’s writing style attractive…mainly her use of timeline and the order in which she told the story. It definitely kept my attention! My favourite chapter was, of course, the last when we get a bit of a summary of Yolanda’s life and the trials she faces as an adult who is trying to make sense of her past. The “cat” metaphor was quite ingenious and I found it helped me to better understand where Yolanda was coming from.
My favourite book of the semester was without a doubt, “and a body to remember with”…It was quite amazing to read this book and then be able to hear from the author herself. The hardship and life struggles that Rodriguez depicts in this novel are so raw and lifelike and the detail with which she writes is so very intriguing…I was drawn in to the book immediately.
Anyways those are a few of my thoughts on the books we read this semester. This class has been great, it’s really sparked my interest to delve deeper into Latin American literature. Thanks Jon! Cheers…
So the semester is finally over, and I’ve discovered that this term I’ve learned a lot of things, some of which were quite unexpected. For instance, the fact that people in Canada take the immigration experience for granted was a theme we widely explored, especially as of late. People don’t really think about issues unless they are a direct influence on their lives, so although I am an immigrant myself, I sometimes forget the many hardships that accompany that type of change. It’s easy to forget just how hard it really is to pick up your entire life and move to another country, when I’ve been living in Canada for so long and would actually consider myself to be more of a Canadian than anything. Listening to Carmen Rodriguez talk on Friday was quite inspiring: to read a book and get to interview the mind where it all came form is quite a privilege. Carmen really reminded me of my grandma actually, in the way she talked about her book and her grandchildren. I really wish I could be taking her class in the spring semester. It would be interesting to see how she approaches similar issues that we talked about. It was interesting to ask her about the whole fiction/biography issue, and to see her answer be pretty much what we had assumed the reason to be. I loved how down-to-earth she was: it is true what she said about biographies though. It is quite presumptuous of someone to write their own biography. Regarding the rest of this course, I wouldn’t say that I discovered new things, but I’ve definitely learned to look at issues from a different perspective. Reading all these books from the perspective of other immigrants and having people of such diverse backgrounds come together and discuss our own opinions was really quite enlightening. Our discussions sometimes ended with such opposite outlooks, and I found myself overwhelmed with feelings of empathy. I’d definitely keep the Alvarez book and even read it again, however the thought of reading Marti or Ruiz the Burton again is not something I would do in the near future. Overall, I quite enjoyed this class, as it gave me the chance to read these books that one wouldn’t normally find in the curriculum of a regular literature class. I wish you all luck with the rest of the year and finals!
Hard to believe the semester is coming to an end, but alas, here are some concluding thoughts. All in all, I am very glad that I decided to take this class. I was initially looking for a class to brush up on my Spanish and was slightly disappointed that the structure would be primarily based on literature, most of which would be taught in English. However I feel that I have walked away from this class having gained a great deal of insight into the struggles of identity that people face in new cultural settings. I was moved by many of the works that we read and feel that it was the best selection of literature that I have read in a class at UBC.
Having lived 18 years in California, the Chicano experience is something that has been simultaneously close and far away from me all at once. It has been close to me in the sense that I have geographically grown up in an area with a large demographic of Latino immigrants. I have worked in kitchens with all Mexican laborers, have gone to school with Spanish speakers learning English for the first time, and have witnessed movements of solidarity that are often pushed to the margins of society or ignored by the government. I once tried to organize workers in my restaurant to participate in the Day Without a Mexican but was discovered and scolded by my boss. Needless to say, work still ran because too many of the immigrant workers were afraid of losing their jobs. I have felt far away from the experience because despite the physical proximity and certain elements of a collective experience I have shared with Chicanos in my area, I am still a representative of the dominant white English speaking demographic of my country and have lived the majority of my life feeling comfortable in my cultural environment.
Reading the books that we read in this class provided a certain bridge of understanding to the experience of immigration and identity. These books provided a voice that is often underrepresented in dominant cultural discourse. They told tales of the emotional experience of cultural assimilation, created a sense of collective identity, and asked questions of identity and the possibility of hybridizing cultures. Who Would Have Thought It? providing a historical context for Latin immigration and dealt with issues of fluidity of borders. Jose Marti provided insight into American culture as understood by someone who exists outside of it. Y no se lo trago la tierra created a mosaic of collective experience and unstable identities. Women Hollering Creek brought up many elements of the female experience and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents dealt with issues of cultural confusion, assimilation, and attempts of creating a ‘hybrid’ culture. And lastly, And a Body to Remember With dealt with the deeply emotional side of memory, uprooting, and political exile. All have offered valuable insights and I am glad to have had the experience of reading them. All in all, I felt this was a very rewarding class.
I have enjoyed this class, the topics covered and the books were all very interesting.
Explaining to people that I was taking a Spanish class…but mostly reading and speaking English confused a lot of people…but now that we’ve finished all of the different books I’ve come to realize that reading books written by Latinas/Chicanas in English is really representative of the dual identities that these women and allows them to express all aspects of their identities through writing and reach a variety of different audiences.
I think that the fact that these writers (the women at least) wrote in English says a lot about their experiences. I’m mostly thinking about Sandra Cisneros and Carmen Rodriguez (but Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton and Julia Alvarez are also important).
Sandra Cisneros is a bit different because she was born in the U.S. but her writing is very influential in depicting the unique Chicana dual identity of being of both cultures.
Rodriguez presents a similar context in a different way, as having a dual identity due to immigration. Rodriguez presents a very personal view of what it feels like to live as an immigrant Canada – accepting the culture of the new country while maintaining connection to that of your birth country.
The past few months I have been working on a research project for America Latina al Dia (a radio show on Co-op Radio). We’ve been talking to a lot of people about what they think about the show. People think that the show, which is bilingual, should remain bilingual because by using English, the show is able to present a Latin American perspective to English speakers, who may not have access to this perspective anywhere else. I think that the same goes for these books in English – they make the stories of Mexican-American, Dominican-American, Chicana and Chilean-American women available to English speakers.
I think that’s all I’ve got for tonight. Also, if you guys don’t already listen to co-op radio, you should, haha. Especially America Latina al Dia, Saturdays 12-1:30pm, 102.7fm.
the books that we read during the class definatley made me think of borders although being a physical reality, is quite a socially made up concept. All the books we read showed us that its hard to be either here or there, or to be this or that. The characters have all been quite fluid as well as the authors and described to us the difficulties of having to accustom to new life in a new place, as well as accustom to how the old life is viewed while living in your new world. I think that these books, especially the last three have shown the different ways remembering is portrayed (like in Rodriguez’s memory is portrayed through the body), becoming accustomed to something (dont like the word assimilation) because no one really fully assimilates when you come to a new place. I really liked the themes we delt with in these stories and it was really interesting to see how even though the stories took place in different places, with different latino cultures..its still the same themes that are brough out. My favourite book by far was sandra cisneros’s Women Hollering Creek. i loved everything she had to say and the way she writes is just so blunt and powerful. I felt that some of her stories she put in for the reader to think about if it really ties into chicano life and if so for what reason (like the marloboro man one). i think the notion of identity will always be one of the strongest themes that comes out throughout chicano literature because in th end, its kind of what we all strive for. To identify ourselves with a place, a religion, a race, a gender…its all those things that make up our identity but its not just black and white and thats why these authors write in the way that they do, to try and show us the hardships one goes through to identify themselves to sense that they belong to something or somewhere. i wonder if thats been ingrained in our minds by society that we need to label ourselves by where we come from in order to feel like we exist in the world? hmmmm…something to think about…
I suppose that more than any other question in this course that I have asked myself, the one that has been the most pertinent to me, has been “Who am I?”. Identity seems to have been something most (if not all) the authors and their characters in this class have struggled to define. Whether born in one country and raised in another, raised and born in the same country but discovering that identity can still not be found, or thrown into exile and struggling to define if you are one-thing or another, it almost seems something that immigrants, if not a majority of people, may fight with at one point in their lives or other.
I feel like society today really aims to categorize people, to literally place them in boxes. It seems at times almost an obsession.
Check ONE of the following:
African, Asian, East Asian, Middle-Eastern, Pacific Islander, Caucasian, Hispanic, Latino/Chicano, Native American, Other.
What if a person wants to check more than one box? Are they thus forced to check other? Or what if they don’t want to be identified as an “other”? What if what they identify as isn’t even a box that can be filled? What if they do not want to check a box altogether? Or why is blank space not provided so people can self identify?
This course and its readings and discussions have made me question who I am, and also made me conscious that this is not at all an uncommon question. I was born in the United States, in Seattle. My mother from Indonesia, but her ancestry is Chinese. She sees herself as an American though, even though she doesn’t have her US citizenship. My father was born and raised in Washington, to a Canadian mother and an American father. Combined, he is Native American-Dutch-German-Norwegian-Canadian-Scottish-French. But he identifies as American. And I study in Canada. So what does that make me? An American-Canadian-Indonesian-Native American-Chinese-Dutch-German-Norwegian-Scottish-French-Seattlite (that happens to be studying Spanish)?
Does the order in which people state “what they are” or “who they are matter”?
I choose not to define myself. At least not right now.
What about you?