Friday, September 23, 2005

La Malinche to Curbstone

Manuel Ramos

In this post: Lucha Corpi, Infinite Divisions, Chicano Detective Fiction, Curbstone Press.

Lucha Corpi
Gina's splendid review yesterday of Prietita and The Ghost Woman and her observation that "[m]aybe La Llorona is just another aspect of Tonantzin the Earth Mother, La Virgen de Guadalupe. Maybe the sound of her wailing is because we don’t listen, we’re forgetting our lore, our heirbas, our recetas, our language. Quien sabe?" got me to thinking of other books (notice how often my brain kicks in after reading a post by one of my compas here on La Bloga?) where such themes occur, where the traditional tales are applied to current situations. That train of thought took me to Lucha Corpi and her novel Black Widow's Wardrobe. Lucha has published five novels, four of which usually are classified as Chicano detective fiction. Black Widow's Wardrobe appeared in 1999 (Arte Público Press). Here's an excerpt from a review I did of this book back then:

"Black Widow's Wardrobe is nothing less than a re-telling of the legend and myth of La Malinche, Cortez's mistress branded forever as a traitor. The use of La Malinche signals a deepening of the trend of the past several years to rewrite Malinche's story in order to overcome the inherent sexism and racism of that history. In Corpi's book, Malinche is the target of betrayal, not its purveyor, and she definitely is not her husband's victim. Corpi also flips the myth of La Llorona on its head. The ancient tale of the woman who murdered her children and was thus forced to cry forever along riverbanks, which has been used for centuries by mothers and grandmothers to instill good behavior in unruly children, gets a complete overhaul in Corpi's mystery novel. Under Corpi's pen, the children are the possible murderers of their mother and it is they who must suffer the consequences. ... This is a Chicana tale of discovery and reaffirmation, and a cultural reclamation project that just happens to have a detective as a protagonist."

Infinite Divisions
If you are interested in reading more about what Chicana writers have done with the old myths, such as La Llorona or Malinche, I suggest a good starting point is the excellent Infinite Divisions: An Anthology of Chicana Literature, edited by Tey Diana Rebolledo and Eliana S. Rivero (University of Arizona Press, 1993). An entire section of this book is devoted to Myths and Archetypes, and it includes selections from authors such as Pat Mora, Carmen Tafolla, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Sandra Cisneros, and Corpi.

Here's a taste of the poem La Malinche by Carmen Tafolla:

But Chingada I was not.
Not tricked, not screwed, not traitor.
For I was not traitor to myself ---
I saw a dream
and I reached it.
Another world .....
la raza.
la raaaaa-zaaaaa...

Chicano Detective Fiction
Speaking of Chicano detective fiction - the critical study of five novelists in this genre (including Lucha Corpi), Chicano Detective Fiction by Susan Baker Sotelo (McFarland & C0., 2005) received a very positive review in the most recent issue (#8) of Crime Spree Magazine, the best of the mystery magazines, in my opinion. The review said, "While this book is obviously set up to be used as a text book, it is a wonderful introduction to a group of writers who are becoming more and more influential. Sotelo's love for the work shows through out the book. It is extremely well researched and informative, and while it could easily become dry reading, it doesn't. It made me want to go back and reread some of these books with different eyes."

Curbstone Press
Congratulations to Curbstone Press, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on September 25 at Eastern Connecticut State University from noon to 5 p.m. The party will include a gala poetry reading, some very special honored guests, a Latin American buffet meal, and more, alfresco under festive tents. Find out more about the party at this web page. Curbstone is dedicated to "creative literature that invites readers to examine social issues, encourages a deeper understanding between cultures, and reflects a commitment to promoting human rights." This press has published several Latino/a writers over the years (Ana Castillo's latest, Watercolor Women / Opaque Men is from Curbstone), and many of them will be at the party. Not to be a name-dropper, but the Curbstone website says that they expect at least the following Latino/a writers to attend: Claribel Alegría, Arturo Arias, Naomi Ayala, Martín Espada, Lorraine López, Nicholasa Mohr, and Luis J. Rodríguez. That's an impressive guest list for any party.



daniel olivas said...

great post, manuel. so many books that have to be read or re-read.

Raymundo Eli Rojas said...

Not to forget is Tey Diana Rebelledo's introduction to "Infinite Divisions." It can be an article unto itself. It gives a very good lowdown on the history of Chicana lit.

Unknown said...

What a nice compliment and a great post! Gracias. You've given me quite a bit to think about and more books for my list of must reads.

Ktrion said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ktrion said...

Wow, now I can't wait to read your review of Ralph Rodriguez's Brown Gumshoes, which is another new study of Chicana and Chicano detective fiction.