The Stories

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In “The Moths,” a young girl experiences a rite of passage to adulthood as she cares for her dying grandmother, her Abuelita. Estranged from her family’s strict demands, and especially from her domineering father, the girl finds comfort nursing her grandmother. Her grandmother dies, and the girl carries her into the bathroom, submerging herself and her grandmother in a tub of water. Gray moths begin to fill the bathroom, emerging from the grandmother’s soul through her mouth.

In “Growing,” a confused teenage protagonist is pulled between childhood pleasures and adult desires and is saddled with the responsibility of taking care of a younger sister. In “Birthday,” Alice Johnson comes to realize that she cannot depend on a man, and that the decision to have an abortion is hers alone. In “The Broken Web,” an older women tries to break free from the gender roles imposed by the Church and by society. She kills her husband in an argument but finds that she is still owned by him and their children, regardless of whether she is in Tijuana, Mexico, or in Fresno, California.

In “The Cariboo Café,” two immigrant children become lost in the Los Angeles garment district. They are found by an old woman, herself an undocumented immigrant from Central America. She takes the children to her hotel room and then to the Cariboo Café, where the owner feeds the three and then later calls the police. Both the white café owner and the...

(The entire section is 448 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Castillo, Debra A., and María Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba. Border Women: Writing from La Frontera. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002. An analysis of writing by women living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, examining how these writers question accepted ideas about border identities.

Garza-Falcon, Leticia. Gente Decente: A Borderlands Response to the Rhetoric of Dominance. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998. Chapter 6, “Media Reportage as History-in-the-Making,” consists of detailed analyses of “The Cariboo Café” and “Neighbors.” Part of a study of “border” literature and of cultural borderlands as places for refiguring cultural and social dominance and oppression through literature.

Green, Carol Hurd, and Mary Grimley Mason, eds. American Women Writers. New York: Continuum, 1994. The editors provide a brief biographical sketch of Viramontes as well as an analysis of the stories in The Moths. Emphasizes the portrayal of Chicana women with their strengths and weaknesses as they struggle with cultural and social restrictions. Notes, too, that many of the characters pay a price for rebelling against traditional values.

Mujcinovic, Fatima. Postmodern Cross-culturalism and Politicization in U.S. Latina Literature: From Ana Castillo to Julia Alvarez. Modern American Literature 42. New York: Peter Lang,...

(The entire section is 433 words.)