Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Latina Spice, Served Hot

I was having lunch with one of my new colleagues yesterday and we were discussing books, specifically those of Hispanic interests. It seems clear that a paradox exists in the industry, that while many authors don't want their books to be culturally labeled and pigeonholed - if they aren't marketed to some degree as Latino, Asian, African American or what have you - then that particular audience is in fact ignored and just perpetuates the marginalization that already exists even though the intent was to avoid it. IMO ignoring it just perpetuates the invisibility of that group.

Good fiction, classic fiction transcends categorization but that doesn't mean that the story does not have sub themes that can be examined and used to aid readers in their quests for topics of personal interests.

No one would argue that Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt isn't an Irish, Catholic and also an American immigrant tale while at the same time it's not marginalized like Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas, which I don't think ever reached the same mainstream success even though it deals with coming of age in poverty on the other side of the pond, from the eyes of a dark skinned, Puerto Rican son of emigrant parents - similar issues.

While on the topic, we broached how Latina works' in particular are labeled with the same kind of language usually reserved for food. It took me back to my anthropology classes, issues of Other and reminded me of the Hottentot Venus effect.

When was the last time you came upon something "Latino" and saw or heard the words "caliente," "hot tamale," "flavor," "rich," "spicy," "coconut," "mango," etc.,

Here's some academic reading for you, if you want to examine the issue a bit further:
From Bananas to Buttocks: The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture
by Myra Mendible or "how the world see us!"

There's some food for thought for ya! ; )

Also, don't forget that authors Junot Díaz and Francisco Goldman will be partaking in “Conversations in the Humanities” at the Graduate Center, Thursday, April 3rd,
365 Fifth Avenue and 34th Street
New York, NY


  1. thanks for this post. I would love to hear about the talk since those are two of my favorite authors and I'm on the other side of the country. abrazos

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