Dear Readers: A couple of columnas ago, I publisheda 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 can 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 his own book. What’s wrong with the rest of you wab authors? Humility won’t get you anything in the publishing world!
Be sure to add myAztlán & Viet Nam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the Warsso [gabachos]learn that ourgentefight in their wars. Also, fiction by Tomás Rivera, (. . . And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him), Dagoberto Gilb (the collection calledGritos) and Alejandro Morales (The Brick People).
Loving in the War Years—Lo que nunca paso por sus labiosby 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 with 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.
Pochoby José Antonio Villarreal. Another oldie but goodie, this one was published in 1959 but is still a lyrical examination of Mexican assimilation into los Estados Unidos.
Chicana Falsa: And Other Stories of Death, Identity, & OxnardbyMichelle Serros. Assimilation the chica way.
The Devil’s Highway: A True Storyby Luis Alberto Urrea. 2005 Pulitzer Prize nonfiction finalist detailing Mexican immigrants trying to cross the Arizona desert.
The Death of Artemio Cruzby Carlos Fuentes. An obvious choice, but a necessary one, written by one of the titans of Mexican letters.
The Labyrinth of Solitudeby Octavio Paz. The intellectual cover for nearly every stereotype Americans have about Mexicans—thanks a lot, Nobel Prize laureate!
Drink Cultura: Chicanismoby José Antonio Burciaga. One of the literary godfathers of the Mexican, this collection of essays never ceases to entertain or inform.
Like Water for Chocolateby Laura Esquivel. For the sex-starved woman in your life!