Latino Short Fiction Summary


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

While the popularity of short fiction in the twentieth century has been evidenced in the sheer volume of story anthologies, literary magazines, and copious production of collections by major artists, such as Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and Donald Barthelme, the short fiction of Latinos has rarely made an appearance. Large presses generally carried few or no works by Latino writers; mainstream and smaller literary magazines—primarily located on the East Coast and attuned to literature by Anglo men—believed there was no market for Latino stories. In fact, there was little appearance of Latino short fiction until mid-century; the genre began to create inroads into the Latino community (in fact, creating its own readership) only in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, and the publication of short stories by Latino authors became robust in the 1980’s.

With the establishment of journals such as Americas Review (formerly Revista Chicana-Riquena) and of presses such as Arte Publico in Texas, which focus on writing by Latinos, a tradition of publication and distribution of short fiction began. As a result, the latter two decades of the twentieth century saw an explosion in the writing and publication of short fiction by Latinos and an exponential interest on the part of the public at large. Recently, several works of Chicano and Latino fiction have found their way into major literary anthologies and onto required reading lists in high school...

(The entire section is 530 words.)

The Latino Short-Story Form

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Though not traditionally the dominant genre—novels and poetry have been more prevalent—the short-story form is particularly expressive for Chicano and Latino writers. The dramatic diversity and hybridity of Chicano and Latino life, and the tensions created by cultural flux, make apt material for the conventions of short fiction. It is no coincidence that some of the most influential works by Chicanos and Latinos are collections of short stories, such as experimental work by Tomás Rivera and the ground- breaking fiction of Sandra Cisneros. Rivera’s and Cisneros’s works are especially dependent on the accessibility and flexibility of the short-story genre, because both weave together a patchwork of narratives, a polymorphous collection of voices to articulate the lives of Latinos—an ethnic American group that is complex and varied. These and other writers have been able to express the complexities yet demonstrate the thematic concerns and stylistic sensibilities that make a particular work of short fiction distinctly Latino.

One of those distinctions is language. Many Chicanos and Latinos are fully bilingual or at least participate in more than one linguistic community. This Spanish-English bilingualism is directly addressed in many works of short fiction. While a few writers, such as Sabine Ulibarrí, were published in Spanish first, countless others demonstrate this bilingualism through the use of Spanish in the text via the insertion of “Spanglish,” or anglicization of Spanish words, and frequent code- switching—that is, the act of alternating between or using the two languages at once, often in the same sentence or phrase. Although the English-language reader is usually able to fully comprehend these insertions through contextual clues or immediate translation, sometimes meaning is obscured for the readers who are not bilingual.

Customs and culture also play a large role in Latino short fiction. The inclusion of religious ritual, local legend, and popular folklore, much of which is unfamiliar to non-Latino or mainstream readers finds its way into a number of works. For the Latino writer, the delineations between fact and fantasy, dream and reality,...

(The entire section is 896 words.)