As U.S. policymakers continue the back-and-forth debate on immigration reform and, yet again, only the ills of the U.S.–Mexico border dominate the popular media, it becomes essential to read the words of Chicano writers who explore the complexities of that particular Latino landscape through story, personal narrative, and poetry.
Chicano is a politicized identity that recognizes a Mexican ancestry, that places its unique American experiences at the center of the conversation, away from the margins, and that believes, quite simply, in speaking for itself. Its literary lineage dates back to the social movements of the 1960s, when poetry, storytelling and theater participated in expressing the Chicano community's gains and challenges as it fought for political agency and pushed back against egregious misrepresentations of its people. Indeed, the struggle, or la lucha, continues and so does the work of Chicano writers who bear witness from the inside.
Of course, not all Chicano writers direct their imaginations toward the U.S.–Mexico border, but they do examine other preoccupations (history, feminism, and queerness, which at times overlap with border politics) with the same passion and creativity. The following is a list of recent or forthcoming titles I strongly recommend.
1. The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez
2. A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying by Laurie Ann Guerrero
3. The City of Palaces by Michael Nava
4. The Deportation of Wopper Barraza by Maceo Montoya
5. The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
6. Ditch Water by Joseph Delgado
7. Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Saénz
8. Give It to Me by Ana Castillo
9. Hustle by David Tomas Martinez
10. Las Hociconas: Three Locas with Big Mouths and Even Bigger Brains by Adelina Anthony
11. Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
12. Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez
13. Mouth Filled with Night by Rodney Gomez
14. Our Lost Border: Essays on Life Amid Narco-Violence edited by Sarah Cortez and Sergio Troncoso
Rigoberto González is the author of 13 books of poetry and prose and the editor of Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Literature. He is the recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, winner of the American Book Award, The Poetry Center Book Award, The Shelley Memorial Award of The Poetry Society of America, and a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is contributing editor for Poets & Writers Magazine, on the executive board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle, and is associate professor of English at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey.