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Crossing, Trespassing, and Subverting Borders in Chicana Writing

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Debora Holler

The border and border-crossing and its significance for the Chicana in a cultural, social, gendered, and spiritual sense are at the core of this book. The three oeuvres selected—Helena Viramontes’ The Moths and Other Stories, Ana Castillo’s The Mixquiahuala Letters, and Norma Cantú’s Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera—are eloquent examples of feminist Chicana writers who refuse to allow their lives to be restricted by the gender, social, racial, and cultural border and who portray how Chicana women rebel against the unfair treatment they receive from their fathers, husbands and lovers. Crossing and deconstructing the man-made borders means to leave behind the known territory and discover an unknown land, in the hope of finding a new world in which Chicana women have the same rights as white women and in which they can realize their self, develop a new mestiza consciousness and liberate themselves from patriarchal constraints and religious beliefs. The author shows how the newly won self-confidence empowers the Chicana to explore the opportunities this freedom offers.

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5 Mestiza Liberation through Transgression: Crossing Gender Borders in Ana Castillo’s The Mixquiahuala Letters (1986)

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Ana Castillo40—born June 15, 1953 to Mexican migrants in Chicago—is one of the leading voices in Chicana literature, a prolific Chicana poet, writer, novelist and essayist. She received a B.A. in art and later an M.A. in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the University of Chicago. She taught various subjects at several colleges, among them ethnic studies, English as a second language, Mexican and Mexican American history, Chicano literature, feminist journal writing, women’s studies, and creative writing. In 1991 she received a PhD in American Studies from the University of Bremen for the work Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma and an honorary doctorate from Colby College. Castillo has been writing since her early childhood, especially poetry and stories. Even though she did not plan to be a professional writer, with the popularity and the success of her work, she can make a living by writing. Whereas the first poetry works reflected on the struggle against oppression of colored men and women, her themes gradually shifted to feminist issues and the sexuality of Latin American women (Madsen 78).

Castillo is known for the following outstanding works: the novels The Mixquiahuala Letters (1986), Sapogonia (1990), So far from God (1993), Peel my Love like an Onion (1999), My Daughter, my Son, the Eagle, the Dove: an Aztec Chant (2000), Watercolor Women, Opaque Men: A Novel in Verse (2005), The Guardians (2007), and most recently Give it to me (2014); the short story Loverboys (1996); numerous...

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