Lucha Corpi’s essay in Friday’s La Bloga asks interesting questions about why Chicana writers and readers avoid mystery fiction. And this seems to be unique to Chicana readers and Chicana writers, since half the card-carrying mystery writers in the United States are women.
In Corpi’s experience Chicanas express a generalized disdain for the value and importance of mystery novels. “That kind of novel”, says writer Sandra Cisneros, she doesn’t read—much less write. And explaining why Corpi remained, for seventeen years, the singular Chicana among mystery writers, “no los han tomado el gusto”, says social critic Norma Alarcón. Yet, Chicanas approach Corpi at her readings to confess their desire to be a mystery writer like Corpi.
It’s never too late to start. I wonder if one reason Chicanas express a distaste for mystery fiction might be the vast gulf between the world of novels and the reader’s. I know certain readers would not welcome the horrible murder of an infant as their initial experience reading a Chicana detective novel. Yet a reader—particularly a baby boomer--might appreciate following V.I. Warshawsky’s rough-and-tumble career to her bumbling middle age, where she’s two steps too slow and losing it mentally. Corpi’s own Gloria Damaso character, feeling her years, has taken on a pair of associates to relieve the load (it’s good to see Gloria’s coming back in Corpi’s next publication).
One answer, then is to recommend the right titles to those late-blooming mystery reader friends. Get them started on a classic then they'll start digging in on their own and one day be ready for infanticide and Corpi's Eulogy for a Brown Angel.
Be systematic. Start with Lucha Corpi’s list and expand it to make up your own list of the best Chicana Chicano mystery titles. Prioritize it with certain friends in mind. Which title will you give to your mom? How about your habitual reader pal? Your book group?
Be serendipitous. One fellow I know is a human resources director. He keeps a supply of Chicana Chicano mystery titles (and children’s titles he spots on La Bloga) in his office. When a worker expresses a desire to move up in the company, the HR guy gives the kid a pep talk and a book. He’s identified several candidates for advancement as a result, and Lucha Corpi has several new readers in southeast LA.
Clearly, Chicanas do not publish mystery fiction. Adding Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s outstanding Desert Blood: The Juarez Murders to Lucha Corpi’s five titles, including her upcoming Death At Solstice, Chicanas have published those six. But do Chicanas read mystery fiction? Do you?
Please take a moment to share a comment about reading Chicana detective fiction, or mysteries in general, to expand on Lucha Corpi’s list of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino mystery fiction. Joining the discussion is easy: click on the word "comment" below.
The real mystery is where does the time go? Here we are, the 1st of May already. Summer around the corner! See you next week.