Reading List for Mexican-American Literature

yllabus of Suggested Readings for a Survey Course on Mexican-American Literature

The course is designed to follow the historical development of Hispanic literature in the Southwest using complete works currently available for college and university classrooms. The periodization is based on Luis Leal’s oft-cited “Mexican American Literature: A Historical Perspective” (in Sommers and Ybarra-Frausto, Modern Chicano Writers).

I. The Hispanic Period (to 1821)
Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, The Account. Eds. And trans. By José Fernández and Martin Favata. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1993.
One of the earliest chronicles, ethnographies and memoirs written in a European language of what was to become the U.S. Southwest. Originally published in 1542, this is one of the starting points of “American literature” in a European language.

Excerpts from Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá, Historia de la Nueva México, 1610. Eds. And trans. By Miguel Encinias et al. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1992.
One of the first epic poems of the Américas, written during Juan de Oñate’s 1598 colonizing mission into New Mexico. From this time on there is an unbroken Spanish-language written and oral tradition in what became the U.S. Southwest.

II. The Mexican Period (1821-1848)
Memoirs, diaries and testimonies that were transcribed later in the century relate to this brief period when the territory from Texas to California belonged to the nascent Mexican Republic. Excerpts of these may be obtained from anthologies and OCLC searches for such authors as: José Arnaz, Juan Bautista Alvarado, Juan Bandini, Mariano Vallejo and Antonio Coronel. An especially interesting corpus of testimonies collected and transcribed by interviewers for Hubert H. Bancroft is that composed of narrations by women: Angustias Guerra de Ord, Apolinaria Lorenzana, Eulalia Pérez, Teresa Guerra de Hartnell, Juan Machado de Ridington and others. (See Rosaura Sánchez, “Nineteenth-Century Californio Narratives” (In Gutiérrez and Padilla, Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1993.)

III. The Transition Period (1848-1910)
María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Who Would Have Thought It? Eds. Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1995.
Originally published in 1872, it is the first Mexican-American novel written in the English language. Who Would Have Thought It? is an historical romance that explores the dominant myths about race, nationality and gender prevalent in the United States prior to the Civil War.

María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, The Squatter and the Don. Eds. Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997 (Second Edition).
Originally published in 1885, the novel is narrated from the perspective of the conquered population of the Southwest, and chronicles the subordination and marginalization of that native population.

Excerpts from Adina de Zavala, History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio. Ed. Richard Flores. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1996.
Zavala, granddaughter of the first vice president of the Texas Republic, Lorenzo de Zavala, self-published this volume in 1917 to reconstruct Texas history from a Mexican American’s and a woman’s perspective.

A selection of border ballads in translation may be obtained from numerous sources, including Américo Paredes, A Texas-Mexican Cancionero. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976.

IV. The Interaction Period (1910-1942)
A selection of ballads of immigration may be obtained from the pamphlet accompanying the CD and LP record collection of Texas-Mexican Border Music. The Chicano Experience. Vol. 14 (Berkeley: Arhoolie Records).

The Collected Stories of María Cristina Mena. Ed. Amy Doherty. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.
Fiction crafted for and in part resisting conventions of the U.S. mainstream magazines, such as Century, Cosmopolitan and T.S. Eliot’s Criterion, between 1912 and 1931.

Jovita González, Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.
González’s previously unpublished novel manuscript, dating from the 1930s, recreates the life of Texas Mexicans as Anglo culture was gradually encroaching upon them in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dew on the Thorn focuses on the cultural traditions of Texas Mexicans when the divisions of class and race were pressing on the established way of life.

Américo Paredes, George Washington Gómez. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1990.
This previously unpublished novel written in 1936 charts the coming of age of a young Mexican American on the Texas-Mexican border, set against the background of guerrilla warfare, banditry, land grabs, abuses by the Texas Rangers and the over-powering pressures to disappear into the American melting pot.
[Also available from Arte Público Press, two collections of early works by Américo Paredes: The Hammon and the Beans and Other Stories and Between Two Worlds (Poetry)]

Daniel Venegas, The Adventures of Don Chipote: When Parrots Breast Feed. Ed. Nicolás Kanellos. Trans. Ethriam Cash Brammer. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2000.
Originally published in Spanish in 1928 in Los Angeles, The Adventures of Don Chipote is one of the earliest novels of Mexican immigration. It is a humorous, picaresque tale narrated by a “Chicano” for Chicano workers, recounting the trials, tribulations and comic episodes of immigrating, working on the railroad, in construction, in dish washing, etc., from Texas to California.

V. Chicano Period (1943-Present)
Luis Pérez , El Coyote, the Rebel: A Nonfiction Novel. Ed. Lauro Flores. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2000.
Luis Pérez’s novel is the first published in the English language by a Mexican American chronicling immigration to the Southwest and Mexican American service in World War II. It is also one of the very few, early examples of a Mexican American work being published by a mainstream press: Henry Holt, 1947.

Tomás Rivera, …y no se lo tragó la tierra/And the Earth Did Not Devour Him. Trans. Evangelina Vigil-Piñón. Third Edition. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1995.
Rivera’s novel of the life of migrant farm workers, as seen throught the eyes of a young boy searching for his identity, is foundational for modern Chicano literature. [Other Rivera works available from Arte Público Press are Tomás Rivera: The Complete Works, The Harvest/La Cosecha (Stories) and The Searchers: Collected Poetry.]

Luis Valdez-Early Works: Actos, Bernabé and Pensamiento Serpentino. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1990.
The foundational actos of Chicano theatre, dating from 1965 are included in the collection as well as Valdez’s essays on the role and esthetic of teatro chicano. [Also available: Luis Valdez, Zoot Suit and Other Plays. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1992.]

For the remainder of the course, there are available numerous anthologies of contemporary Chicano literature as well as numerous volumes by individual authors.
Selected Bibliography for Background Study / Research / Reading

Calderón, Héctor, and José David Saldívar, eds. Criticism in the Borderlands: Studies in Chicano Literature, Culture and Ideology. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991.

Gonzales-Berry, Erlinda, ed. Pasó Por Aquí: Critical Essays on the New Mexican Literary Tradition, 1542-1988. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989.

Gonzales-Berry, Erlinda, and Chuck Tatum, eds. Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage. Vol. II. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1996.

Gutiérrez, Ramón, and Genaro Padilla, eds. Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage. Vol. I. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1993.

Herrera-Sobek, María, and Virginia Sánchez Korrol, eds. Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage. Vol. III. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1999.

Kanellos, Nicolás, and Helvetia Martell. Hispanic Periodicals in the United States, Orgins to 1960: A Brief History and Comprehensive Bibliography. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1999.

Meléndez, Gabriel. So All Is Not Lost: The Poetics of Print in Nuevomexicano Communities, 1834-1958. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997.

Meyer, Doris. Speaking for Themselves: Neomexicano Cultural Identity and the Spanish-Language Press, 1880-1920. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Olivares, Julián, ed. International Studies in Honor of Tomás Rivera. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1985.

Padilla, Genaro. My History, Not Yours: The Formation of Mexican American Autobiography. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993.

Paredes, Américo. A Texas-Mexican Cancionero: Folksongs of the Lower Border. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976.

____________. Folklore and Culture on the Texas-Mexican Border. Ed. Richard Bauman. Austin: Center for Mexican American Studies, 1993.

Saldívar, Romón. Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

Sánchez, Rosaura. Telling Identities: The Californio Testimonials. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.

Sánchez, Rosaura, and Barbara Reyes, eds. Nineteenth-Century California Testimonials. San Diego: University of California, CRITICA Monograph Series, 1994.

Sommers, Joseph, and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, eds. Modern Chicano Writers: A Collection of Critical Essays. New York: Prentice Hall, 1979.

Tatum, Charles. Chicano Literature. Boston: Twayne, 1982.

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