Publication date: 2001
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Conversations with Ten Chicana Writers
During the past two decades, literary issues like multiculturalism, gender, borders and border crossing, and the development of personal, cultural, and alternative identities have become increasingly important. The same years have seen the flourishing of writers from a number of ethnic minorities, including the Mexican-American women who are the subjects of these probing and insightful interviews by Karin Rosa Ikas.
The ten Chicana writers who are the subjects of this book reflect a remarkably diverse range of backgrounds and of personal and aesthetic programs. Novelist-playwright-actress Denise Chávez, for example, is the child of professional parents; she sees herself as a writer deeply rooted in her community and as a voice for the women of her community. Gloria Anzaldúa, on the other hand, who grew up around migrant workers, has been strongly influenced by feminist studies and uses her work to express her resistance to racism and the repression of women. Others, such as poets Lucha Corpi, Cherríe Moraga, and Lorna Dee Cervantes, find in their work the fullest expression of their personal being, as does novelist-short story writer Mary Helen Ponce. Actress Jamie Lujan uses her work to celebrate her individuality, while journalist-poet-novelist Demetria Martinez uses hers to address serious contemporary issues. To playwright-poet-fiction writer Estela Portillo-Trambley, writing is a journey of self-discovery, while poet Pat Mora sees it as the purest form of communication.
The interviews, which address such topics as personal background, education, sense of ethnic and gender identity, the origins and intention of published works, and general views on writing, culture, and art, reveal a rich multiplicity of Chicana voices and views. The writers come from Texas, New Mexico, and California; their connections to Mexico are as direct as having been born there and as tenuous as having descended from a family resident in New Mexico for over four centuries. Their backgrounds reflect a wide range of socio-economic realities, and their views on gender, sexuality, race, and writing are equally diverse. Yet to each of these writers, her identity as a Chicana and as a woman is critically important to her evolution and purpose as a writer.
Chicana Ways will be essential reading for anyone interested in multicultural and feminist literature and will serve as compelling documentation of the rich diversity and brilliance of contemporary Mexican American writing.
"Chicana Ways gives readers faces, literal and figurative, for women who have changed American literature with their brilliance and bravery." Barbara Riley, Southwest Book Views, Spring 2002
"According to Ikas, . . . the modern Chicana is no longer a willing subordinate of any malemuch less a victim. This argument is reinforced by interviews with ten prominent Chicana writers (among them Gloria Anzaldua, Denise Chavez, Pat Mora, and Cherrie Moraga), who describe the lives of Chicanasnot Chicanos or male Hispanics. Each chapter features a different author and contains a brief biography and list of writings. In addition, Ikas's skillful questions elicit personal details about what each writer wishes to accomplish in life and convey in specific works, which range from short stories and poems to mysteries and sitcoms. Select topics include Chicana feminismespecially gender roles and sexuality, the effects of landscape and border on a culture, and the craft of writing vs. the more traditional tasks allotted to women. What results is an insightful study that can change readers' perceptions." Nedra C. Evers, Sacramento Public Library, Booklist
"This collection of interviews testifies to the continuing importance of borders and border crossings (national, geographical, sexual, ethnic) in Chicana writing, as well as to its antithesis, if you will, domesticity, the home, and the Chicano family. . . . Chicana Ways is a timely book, and a resource critics of Chicana literature will appreciate." Monika Kaup, Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies
"This is a powerful book because it contains a wealth of highly developed theories, practical knowledge, and profound emotions." Isabel Espinal, REFORMA newsletter, Winter 2002
"Unusual and unique...Chicana Ways is a mine of much-needed, up-to-date information on Chicana ways." - Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies