Celebrate Hispanic Month with Latino literature—September 19, 2008
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on September 16 and Chile its independence on September 18.
The term “Hispanic,” as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, refers to Spanish-speaking people in the United States of any race. On the 2000 Census form, people of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or “other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.” More than 35 million people identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino on the 2000 Census.
Hispanic-American, or Latino, literature is generally written by authors with Spanish-speaking heritage. Topics range from immigrant issues to the juxtaposition of two cultures. Some authors address the Chicano (Mexican-American) movement and other contemporary political issues while others draw on personal experiences for inspiration. In many works, Spanish language vocabulary is employed.
The Hastings Public Library houses various titles by Hispanic American writers. Here are a few short biographies to introduce authors whose works you may not have yet read.
Latina author and poet Sandra Cisneros was born in 1954 in Chicago. The daughter of a Mexican-born father and Mexican-American mother, she grew up in the barrios. Cisneros is best known for her novel “The House on Mango Street,” a coming-of-age story of a Mexican-American girl growing up in the barrio. “Caramelo,” a more recent publication, chronicles one family of three generations, and is set in Mexico City, Chicago, and San Antonio.
Oscar Hijuelos was born in New York City in 1951, to Cuban immigrant parents. In 1990, Hijuelos was the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize, for his second novel “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love,” set in New York’s Latin neighborhoods in the 1950s.
Also born in New York City, Julia Alvarez (b. 1950) was raised in her parents’ native Dominican Republic from infancy through age ten, at which time they returned to the U.S. Her works include “In the Time of the Butterflies,” “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents,” and, most recently, “Saving the World.”
Junot Díaz (b. 1968), a short story writer and novelist, won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” Díaz, who was born in the Dominican Republic, received degrees from Rutgers University and Cornell University.
Carolina Garcia-Aguilera (b. 1949) is a Cuban-born American writer. At the age of ten she and her family settled in New York City. She worked as a private detective for ten years. Her 2003 book “Luck of the Draw” is a mystery thriller.
Discover a new voice or two in Hispanic-American literature this month at your Hastings Public Library.