Very tired for a very good reason (had a very fun and thought-provoking joint book launch event with my colleague Ian Williams today), so another somewhat less analytical post tonight. But nonetheless, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, five Mexican Americans well worth remembering (in no particular order, and with less for each than I could say; future posts on many or all for sure):
1) Gloria Anzaldúa (1942-2004): Subject of the final main chapter of that book I launched today, Anzaldúa was a deeply talented poet, autoethnographer, scholar, historian, and cultural critic. Her Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) is one of the most important American books of the last three decades.
2) César Chávez (1927-1993): Anyone who argues that the labor movement in America had become corrupt or irrelevant (or anything else that could dismiss it) by the late 20th century should be forced to read everything ever written by and about Chávez. They won’t think so when they’re done.
3) Luis Valdez (1940-present): It was in reading Valdez’s play I Don’t Have to Show You No Stinking Badges (1986) in college that I first truly realized that works of dramatic literature can be just as dense and rich and funny and powerful as any other literary genre. Obviously I had much to learn, but after much further development of my thoughts I’m still right there on Valdez—one of America’s greatest playwrights, full stop.
4) Sandra Cisneros (1954-present): There are few works of American fiction that have the ability to resonate with equal power and meaning for high school students, adult general readers, and highly specialized literary critics. Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street (1984) is at the very top of that list. Every time I read its short, funny, sad, pitch-perfect stories, told by young Esperanza as she grows from young childhood to young woman, I find something new.
5) Bill Richardson (1947-present): Richardson has worked as a governor, cabinet secretary, and congressman, and has along the way negotiated with governments in the Sudan and North Korea (among other places). His withdrawal from consideration for the position of Obama’s Commerce Secretary has certainly taken a bit of the shine off of his political reputation, but he remains one of the more significant Democratic politicians of the last two decades.
PS. Six links to start with:
1) Bio of Anzaldúa: http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/anzaldua.php
2) Bio of Chávez: http://www.ufw.org/_page.php?inc=history/07.html&menu=research
3) Info on Valdez: http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap8/valdez.html
4) Two stories from House: http://theliterarylink.com/mangostreet.html
5) New York Times archive of stories on Richardson: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/bill_richardson/index.html
6) OPEN: Any nominees?
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