Latino literature, also referred to as Latino/a and Latinx literature, is literature written by people of Latin American ancestry, often but not always in English, most notably by Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and Dominican Americans, many of whom were born in the United States. Notable writers include Elizabeth Acevedo, Julia Alvarez, Gloria Anzaldua, Rudolfo Anaya, Giannina Braschi, Julia de Burgos, Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, Junot Diaz, Christina Garcia, Oscar Hijuelos, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Piri Thomas, among others.
The Rise of Latino Literature in American AcademiesEdit
A major development in late-20th-century American literature was the proliferation of writing by and about Latino/a people. This coincided with the Civil Rights Movement and its related ethnic pride movements; these led to the formation of Ethnic Studies and Latino Studies programs in major American universities. Latino Studies stemmed from the development of Chicana/o Studies and Puerto Rican Studies programs in response to demands articulated by student movements in the late 1960s. Such programs were established, alongside other new areas of literary study as women's literature, gay and lesbian literature, postcolonial literature, Third World Feminism, and the rise of literary theory. Many works dramatize social justice issues that disproportionally impact Latino communities, such as discrimination, racism, harassment, incarceration, border and immigration issues. There is a plethora of scholarship about Latino people in a range of fields, including literature, theater, popular culture, religion, Spanglish linguistics, politics, and urban planning. Latino literature expands American identity and tackles some of the country's controversies re: immigration, the US-Mexico border, Spanglish, Latino LGBTQ sexuality, and the double-consciousness of the Latino minority.
20th Century Latino LiteratureEdit
Groundbreaking Chicano books that are widely studied include Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street, Denise Chavez's The Last of the Menu Girls, Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, and Ana Castillo’s So Far from God. Other Chicanx writers of note are Jimmy Santiago Baca, Lorna Dee Cervantes, and Leroy V. Quintana. Precursors of Latinx philosophy and Third World Feminisms are Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, best known for their collaboration of groundbreaking feminist anthology This Bridge Called My Back.
Celebrated Puerto Rican novels include Piri Thomas's Down These Mean Streets and Giannina Braschi's Spanglish classic Yo-Yo Boing! and her geopolitical comic tragedy in English about the liberation of Puerto Rico, United States of Banana. Other novels of note are Rosario Ferré's Eccentric Neighborhoods and Luis Rafael Sanchez's Macho Camacho's Beat. Puerto Rico and its diaspora have also produced important playwrights such as René Marqués, Luis Rafael Sánchez, José Rivera, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and poets such as Julia de Burgos, Miguel Algerin, Giannina Braschi, and Pedro Pietri, as well as various members of the Nuyorican Poets Café.
Dominican-American author Junot Díaz, received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which tells the story of an overweight Dominican boy growing up as a social outcast in New Jersey. Another Dominican author, Julia Alvarez, is well known for How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies.
Prominent Cuban American works include Roberto G. Fernandez’ Raining Backwards (1988), Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban (1992), and Oscar Hijuelos’ The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989); and their colleagues in poetry Ana Menéndez, Richard Blanco, and Rafael Campo. Latinx philosophers from Cuba who write about the intersection of literature and philosophy include Jorge J. E. Gracia, Ofelia Schutte, Rolando Perez, and Gustavo Perez Firmat.
21st Century Latino Literature: New TrendsEdit
Coming of Age StoriesEdit
Among the newer voices are those in the genre of Latino coming of age novels. There are many stories and poems about young female protagonists struggling in school or within their bicultural families; the noteworthy books in this category include I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez (2017) and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (2018) For young readers in middle school, The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel tells a coming of age story, one of a young girl's longing to return to her father's homeland of Guatemala. Daniel Alarcón’s (At Night we walk in Circles) offer up political satire, such as the plot of an aspiring young actor living in a war-torn, unnamed South American, who lands a role in a farcical play “The Idiot President” and takes the role too seriously. In stark contrast are the autobiographically inspired adult fiction titles such as Lina Meruane's Seeing Red, about the fear of going blind and having to depend on a lover. This is How You Loose Her by Junot Diaz (2012) a young student is inappropriately involved in a sexual relationship with an older women.
Latino Sci Fi, Speculative Fiction, and FantasyEdit
Growing genres are Latino Speculative fiction, Sci Fi, and fantasy fiction, and with their swift development comes a growth in Latino comic books and graphic novels, as documented in Latinx Rising, the first anthology of science fiction and fantasy by Latinos living in the United States. Edited by Matthew Goodwin and Frederick Luis Aldama, the anthology features a range of speculative and fantasy fiction (i.e, with ghosts, aliens, superheroes, robots, talking sardines) written by Junot Diaz, Giannina Braschi, Kathleen Alcalá, Carmen Maria Machado, Ana Castillo, Edmundo Paz Soldan, and emerging Latino short story tellers such as Ernest Hogan and Sabrina Vourvoulias.
Latinx speculative, fantasy, and weird fiction bring humor to fantastical, futuristic, comedic, and stark political subjects, offering readers strange new concepts such as: Los cosmos azteca, shape shifting robots, pre-Colombian holobooks, talking sardines, and patron saints that are cybernetically wired. Cultural theorist Christopher Gonzalez argues that Latinx fantasy writing provides necessary excursions into the realm of impossible in order for writers and readers to cope with 21st-century realities. Latino authors write about interconnected social justice, familial, and psychological issues (i.e., colonialism, migration, racism, mass incarceration, and misogyny). Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties, blends gothic romance, fantasy, and horror when dealing with misogyny. Giannina Braschi conjures, in United States of Banana, a bizarre cast of characters including things, creatures, and people (i.e., Cockroach, Exterminator, Reptiles, Lady Liberty, Fidel Castro, Hu Jintao, Barack Obama, Wishy-Washy, Hamlet, Zarathustra, Pablo Neruda, and Rubén Darío). In dealing with issues of Puerto Rican sovereignty and debt, Braschi's work projects about what might happen if the United States sold Puerto Rico to China as debt relief. Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz, author of Drown and the short fantasy story "Monstro", has noted that colonialism's roots in Caribbean culture involve fantasy, sci fi, zombies, monsters, and aliens.
- Latino (demonym)
- Latino studies
- Latinx philosophy
- Latino poetry
- American Literature in Spanish
- List of Mexican-American writers
- List of Puerto Rican writers
- List of Cuban-American writers
- Puerto Rican poetry
- Nuyorican Movement
- Speculative Fiction by writers of color
- Decolonization in Latinx culture
- Latino theatre in the United States
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necessary excursions into the realm of the impossible resonate so powerfully in our 21st-century realities
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