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Crossing, Trespassing, and Subverting Borders in Chicana Writing


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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The present study has dealt with the literary presentation of Chicanas mainly living in the borderlands of the United States. Even to date they suffer from patriarchal thinking and preset gender roles within their own community. Their special environment, i.e. living alongside the U.S.-Mexico border, makes them a part of two countries, two cultures, two languages, and two different life style paradigms which are reflected in the way they blend languages, genres, and cultures. Their unique experiences are told in their borderlands writing which expresses bicultural thinking and understanding.

Most Chicanas never thought to actually write about their experiences, much less to even become a writer and make a living by writing. Literary production thus evolved more from private writing, and having won an audience, continued in the process. It was also due to their perseverance, not giving up and not letting their voice be robbed and silenced by patriarchy and domestic duties. Chicanas managed to gain terrain in the literary field in the United States in the comparatively short time of approximately 50 years. Since then they have become an important voice that speaks for their minority group. Writing has not been an easy task, especially for the Chicana. It has often been interpreted as subversive to the male Chicano writing tradition and as a manifestation of resistance to their very own culture. For the majority of Chicanas writing has served the purpose of finding and defining their place as a mestiza in American, Mexican and Chicano...

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