New Chicana/Chicano Writing 1

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In his introduction, editor Charles M. Tatum (himself a Chicano) compares the state of Chicano literature today with that of African-American literature forty years ago. He suggests that the prolific outpouring of Chicano writing will soon force scholars and teachers to acknowledge its place in the nation’s literature.

For this inaugural volume, Tatum has selected work by well-known writers such as Gary Soto (whose three poems are among the best in the book) and Sandra Cisneros (who has just moved from obscurity to national acclaim). Many of the writers represented, though, will be new voices even to readers who have followed Chicana/Chicano writing. This is essentially an anthology of poems, though a handful of short-short stories, sketches, prose poems, and unclassifiable pieces are also included. Most of the contributors write in English, but a few alternate between Spanish and English within a given poem, and a few poems appear in both languages.

Any book that includes work by thirty writers is likely to be both uneven and heterogeneous, and this one is no exception. Generalizations? Popular culture (especially) and Roman Catholicism are recurring reference points. For the most part, the language of these poets is simple and colloquial; many of the poems are marked by a mixture of harshness and sadness, a reckoning with loss. Taken as a whole, this anthology offers news from the interior—messages that don’t contradict but complement the news we get via newspapers, magazines, and television.