New Chicana/Chicano Writing 2

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Like its predecessor, this anthology is a mixed bag. To most readers, the writers represented here will largely be unknown, though a handful of contributors (such as Miguel Mendez) will be recognized by those who keep current with contemporary Latino literature.

There is a considerable range in the styles and tones of these writers, At one extreme is Mendez, whose contribution is the longest in the volume. Given first in Spanish (“Ledras y latrillos”) and then in English (“Bricks and Belles Ladders”), Mendez’ piece is avant-garde, a passionate torrent in which different linguistic registers are incongruously yoked. A translator’s note explains that “In the original Spanish two sections are entirely in the Pachuco argot of the 1950s and would be totally incomprehensible to the average reader”; rather than seeking an equivalent in English, problematic at best, translator and author settled on “more-or-less standard English.” Death, degredation, irrepressible vitality, and the role of the Chicano writer are among the themes of Mendez’ abrasive piece.

Many of the selections, both prose and poetry, are at the opposite end of the stylistic spectrum; where Mendez’ piece is self-conscious, alienated, experimental, they are straightforward (sometimes to a fault), simple in diction and in conception. Ed Chavez’ short story, “Polar Bears in the Mounted Cavalry,” and Arlene Mestas’ two vignettes, for example, are slices of life without enough art. The best pieces in the volume—such as Dagoberto Gilb’s story, “Romero’s Shirt,” and the poems of Rita Magdaleno—fall between these extremes.