A couple of columnas ago, I published a short list of my favorite books regarding Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and urged ustedes to submit better choices so that gabachos can have a Christmas shopping list for their favorite Mexicans, or to understand nosotros better. Muchos responded, and below is a list of the most-recommended tomes, along with my brief descriptions. But before empezamos, let's start with a surprise the only author or publisher to have recommended their own book. What's wrong with the rest of you wab authors? Humility won't get you anything in the publishing world other than water.
"Be sure to add my Aztlán & Viet Nam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the Wars so [gabachos] learn that our gente fight in their wars. Also, fiction by Tomás Rivera, (. . . And the Earth did not Swallow Him), Dagoberto Gilb (the collection called Gritos), and Alejandro Morales (The Brick People)."
Professor of Literature, University of California, San Diego
I'll also give space to reader Vanessa Montez: "After reading your response to Proud to be a Latino, I decided to send an e-mail with a list of my favorite Chicana authors. Hombres can read these too. Enjoy.
Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua Reconstructing a Chicano: Hispanic Colonial Literature of the Southwest by Maria Herrera-Sobek Loving in the War Years (Lo que nunca paso por sus labios) by Cherrie Moraga."
Always has to be a feminist in the olla of beans, ¿qué no? Although with Herrera-Sobek, I'd recommend her excellent treatises on Mexican music, Northward Bound: The Mexican Immigrant Experience in Ballad and Song and The Mexican Corrido: A Feminist Analysis.
Now, onward to the list. Please buy these at your favorite local independent bookstore and if your backwater 'burb doesn't have one, order online at aztlanbooks.com:
North from Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the U.S. by Carey McWilliams: Though first published in 1948 by the legendary former editor of The Nation and updated only twice since, this libro is nevertheless essential, setting the template for Chicano studies by treating Mexicans with respect instead of maracas.
Pocho, José Antonio Villarreal: Another oldie-but-goodie -- published in 1959, but still a lyrical examination of Mexican assimilation into los Estados Unidos.
Chicana Falsa: And Other Stories of Death, Identity, & Oxnard by Michelle Serros: Assimilation the chica way.
The Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea: 2005 Pulitzer Prize non-fiction finalist detailing Mexican immigrants trying to cross the Arizona desert.
The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes: An obvious choice, but a necessary one, written by one of the titans of Mexican letters.
The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz: The intellectual cover for nearly every stereotype Americans have about Mexicans -- thanks a lot, Nobel Prize laureate!
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Drink Cultura: Chicanismo by José Antonio Burciaga: One of the literary godfathers of the Mexican, this collection of essays never ceases to entertain or inform.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: For the sex-starved woman in your life!
Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid by Xavier Garza: Seasonal, bilingual and for the kiddies.
Orange County: A Personal History and ¡Ask a Mexican! by Gustavo Arellano: Remember what I said about book publishing and humility?