Friday, July 15, 2005

Alexander Street to Calle Madero

Manuel Ramos

Latino Literature Project
Taibo and Mexico City
Steven Torres

I recently learned of the Latino Literature Collection that has been compiled by Alexander Street Press. This is a huge electronic database of Latino writing that is now available to universities, scholars, students, teachers and other subscribers.

The following is from Alexander Street Press:

"¿Cómo puede seguir uno viviendo con dos lenguas, dos casas, dos nostalgias, dos tentaciones, dos melancolías? -- Heberto Padilla

Latino literature draws from three major sources: the world of Aztlán, the mythical homeland of the Aztecs prior to Cortez; the Spanish heritage of the national homelands of the writers; and the intersection of these two with Anglo culture. These influences create persistent themes, the most common of which are social protest and exploitation; the migratory experience; self-exploration or self-definition, including the exploration of myths and legends; and life in the barrio (the traditional Latino district of the city). Alongside these broad, shared themes, Latino literature also reflects the distinct immigration experiences of discrete groups.

Latinos are a microcosm: a sum of heterogeneous parts that form a whole. The term 'Latino' (as we use it) encompasses all citizens of the United States whose heritage is Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, and South American, as well as descendents of those who became U.S. citizens when Mexico reluctantly gave up fifty per cent of its territories at the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

The majority of [the Latino Literature Collection] is in English, with selected works of particular importance (approximately 25% of the collection) presented in Spanish. The three major components deliver approximately 200 novels and many hundreds of short stories; 20,000 pages of poetry; and 400 plays. Authors such as Rudolfo Anaya, Cherrie Moraga, Carlos Morton, Alurista, Virgil Suarez, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Ivan Acosta, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Rolando Hinojosa, Tato Laviera, Lucha Corpi, Luis Valdez are included, along with many others.

The collection begins with the works of those in the Southwest who became citizens of the United States in 1850, covering the body of early Chicano writers who began to create a distinctive literature in the early 19th century, such as Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Maria Cristina Mena, Josefina Niggli and Daniel Venegas. Much of this work has long been out of print and unavailable. The collection includes major writers from the Chicano Renaissance and current writers as well. The works of some Teatros created in the late '60s and early '70s are targeted for inclusion, such as El Teatro Campesino (The Farm Workers Theater) and El Teatro de la Esperanza."

The current issue of Américas includes Walking With Mexico City's Private Eye, by Joyce Gregory Wyels.

"Following the footsteps of his famous detective character, writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II leads our author on an exploration of this capital's intriguing icons. ...

'Man, I love this city,' says Héctor Belascoarán Shayne, independent detective.

'Yeah, me too," echoes his creator, Paco Ignacio Taibo II. 'It's a relation of love and hate, like every good relation -- full of passion, and ethical.' Mexico's most celebrated mystery writer takes a long drag from a cigarette, then muses, 'I've had this love-hate relationship from the sixties up to now. Forty years loving and hating Mexico City. Not bad.'"

The rest of the article is a tour of the city through the eyes of Taibo and his character, and nice photographs by Larry Luxner. It's a good article with an insider's view of one of the most intriguing cities in the world.

Speaking of crime fiction written by Latinos - how about Steven Torres?

Torres writes police procedurals. He's published three novels plus several short stories, and he also does interviews, articles, etc. His Luis Gonzalo series includes Precinct Puerto Rico, Death in Precinct Puerto Rico, and Burning Precinct Puerto Rico. You can find out a lot more about Steven and his books over on his website.

Kirkus, well-known for tough reviews, said this about Precinct Puerto Rico:"A top-notch police procedural whose engrossing details create an authentic feel. Terse, deadpan prose, believable characters, and an offbeat setting add up to a promising series kickoff." --Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Steven recently started up his own blog - the Crime Time Cafe. In the cafe he reviews books and short stories, provides news from the world of crime fiction, and also offers his stories for sale on what he calls the Menu of Doom.


Mystery Dawg said...

I love Steve's books. As you probably know Steve has been having a discussion on your books on his blog. What took him so long to find you, Manuel?

Raymundo Eli Rojas said...

If I remember correctly Alexander Press was the press putting Islas' books.

Manuel Ramos said...

Hey Aldo, no surprise that Steve hadn't read any of my books until recently - that's kind of the story of my so-called writing career, no one knows about it. Steve is a great guy and I appreciate his posts on his blog. Who knows where this could go?

And Ray - the complete list of included authors in Alexander Street Press's Latino Literature Project is impressive, I've seen it. Quite a resource. I hope it is easily accessible to students, especially.