Growing Up Latino

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The introduction to GROWING UP LATINO discusses Latino literature in the United States and notes the many differences in background that Latino writers bring to their work. The editors note their intention to highlight the commonalities among the experiences of Latinos while appreciating cultural differences; Mexican Americans are different from Cuban Americans, and both differ from Puerto Ricans. Central Americans are not represented in this volume.

The first section, “Imagining the Family,” gives literary snapshots of family life. Julia Alvarez describes her life as the “Daughter of Invention,” with a mother who sketched improvements of everyday products, hoping to discover and market a profitable invention. Her invention for her daughter is a speech for Teacher’s Day that shows the daughter’s independent spirit while remaining properly obsequious. In “The Ruins,” Patricia Preciado Martin tells of an old woman who collects snippets of community history on scraps of paper, hoping that her efforts will ensure that people will not forget.

“Gringolandia,” the second section, describes the lives of Latino youngsters in Anglo territory. Piri Thomas describes in “Alien Turf” how he had to win the respect of his Italian neighbors, and Nash Candelaria tells how he made friends with a white boy from his neighborhood in “The Day the Cisco Kid Shot John Wayne.” In “Pocho,” a segment from the novel of the same name, Jose Antonio Villareal describes growing up during the Depression.

“Songs of Self-Discovery,” the final section, contains descriptions and memories of how various children came to know themselves. Stories in this section include Edward Rivera’s “First Communion,” Gary Soto’s “Being Mean” (which could be the story of any family of unsupervised boys with a bent toward violence), and Richard Rodriguez’s “Aria,” in which he relates how learning English in school enabled him to develop a public personality yet separated him from his Spanish-speaking parents.