Historia
The Literary Making of Chicana and Chicano History
Literary Criticism
6.125 x 9.25, 352 pp.
Pub Date: 08/01/2001
Rio Grande/Río Bravo: Borderlands Culture and Traditions
  paper
Price:        $24.95 x

978-1-58544-179-2

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Historia

The Literary Making of Chicana and Chicano History

By Louis Gerard Mendoza

The nature of ethnic identity has been a major issue in the Mexican American community for decades now. Historia: The Literary Making of Chicana and Chicano History makes a superb contribution to the multidisciplinary exploration of ways Mexican Americans have chosen to present their past through both "factual" and "fictional" narratives. Whereas history has offered frameworks for interpreting generational changes in the understanding of identity, literature has been particularly rich in exploring themes of power and domination and of intragroup complexities, Louis Gerard Mendoza argues in this innovative look at historical and imaginative literatures and their role in the formation of ethnic identity.

Focusing on late twentieth-century literature and history by American writers of Mexican descent, Mendoza examines how style, purpose, and context function to facilitate or constrain the understanding of the past. By juxtaposing the literary and the historical, he provides new insight on culture, agency, and experience.

Mendoza accepts as his starting point the generational model posited by historian Mario García, then contrasts for each "generation" the nuances and contradictions offered by one or more Chicana/o creative writers. Other historians whose works are centrally considered include Juan Gomez-Quiñones, Rodolfo Alvarez, Ricardo Romo, David Montejano, and Carlos Muñoz, while the literary writers featured include Jovita González, Alejandro Morales, Sara Estela Ramírez, Teresa Paloma Acosta, Oscar Zeta Acosta, and Américo Paredes.

Mendoza argues that history is the narrative battleground upon which literature is based—the writing and rewriting of Chicano history thus becomes an important subtext of Chicana/o literature. However, he contends that most Chicana/o historical narratives are integrated uncritically into literary analysis to establish background, resulting in the invocation of the histories as representations of the "real."

Libraries, Borderlands scholars, and those interested in the broad issues of cultural studies will want to own Mendoza's innovative book, which instead of insisting on the strict separation of the two genres of history and literature, seeks ways to integrate them through the new critical analysis.

Louis Gerard Mendoza is chiar of the Chicano Studies Department at the University of Minnesota. He has published a number of articles on the subject of ethnic identity. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1994.

What Readers Are Saying:

“A good acquisition for collections focusing on Chicano/s studies, American studies, folklore, and historiography.” --Choice

“Even historians who do not understand or use cultural studies will find brilliant and useful analyses of major works in Tejano and Chicano history. In particular, Mendoza has written perhaps the most engaging and thoughtful discussion and critiques of key works by ‘institutional historians.’ This book is challenging, insightful, and a must read.” --Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“Readers will admire the author’s focus on culture to explain the intersections fo Chicana/o history, narrative, and critical interpretations of social, political events.” --Journal of the West

“This book demonstrates how, paradoxically, these disparate yet same forces come together to form both an imaginary and historical persona labeled Chicana or Chicano.” --Journal of the West

Historia makes an eloquent contribution to history and literature by stylishly showing the links between both disciplines. It is an important book for Chicana/o studies scholars interested in literature, history, and the application of interdisciplinary methods.” --Aztlan

“What is important about his study is the good, old-fashioned commitment to the eloquence of creative writing.” --Latin American Research Review

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