Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing

BOOK REVIEW

Edited by Rigoberto Gonzalez
University of Arizona Press, 2010
www.uapress.arizona.edu
ISBN-13: 978-0816528134
$24.95; 368 pp.: ISBN-13: 978-0816528134
Gabrielle David, phati’tude Literary Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 4

IN 1994, LUMINARY CHICANO WRITER Ray Gonzalez helped launch the Camino Del Sol series, a vehicle of Latino literary voices that is published by the University of Arizona Press. Since its founding, the Camino del Sol series has established itself in both the Latino community and the publishing world as it garnered awards for its outstanding writing. This anthology, Camino del Sol, Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing edited by Rigoberto González, is a generous volume that features poetry, fiction and nonfiction works by established writers, award winning and first-time authors.

The book is divided into three sections and aptly titled: (1) “Poetry,” (2) “Fiction,” and (3) “Nonfiction,” with “Source Credits,” “About the Author,” “About the Contributors,” Bibliography,” and “Index of Authors” appearing at the end of the book. In his Introduction, González provides a history of the Camino del Sol series that is interwoven into a brief yet insightful history of Latino publishing in the United States: the authors, trends, sub-trends, categories, and publishers, the obscure as well as the well-known, the distant past as well as the future that appraises the state of American literature written by Latinos. While the writers in this collection are primarily Chicana/o, this collection creates a benchmark for the series and serves as a great introduction to the world of Latina/o literature.

Established writers appear alongside emerging writers throughout the book. González presents this “smorgasbord” of works from existing books that Camino Del Sol has published, so the full works are readily available to readers interested in reading more. The “Poetry” section consists of some really fine writers, such as Francisco X. Alarcón, Rane Arroyo, Blas Falconer, Maurice Kilwein Guevara, Juan Felipe Herrrera, Rita María Magdaleno, Demetria Martinez, Pat Mora, and Virgil Suárez, who have been on the scene for quite some time, and do not disappoint.

Stand-outs (at least for this reviewer) include Richard Blanco, Lisa D. Chávez, and Dixie Salazar. Blanco sets the tone of his “Cuban-ness” in the poem “When I Was a Little Cuban Boy”: “O José can you see . . . that’s how I sang it, when I was / a cubanito in Miami, and América was some country / I the glossy pages of my history book, someplace / way north, everyone white, cold, perfect . . . .” Or Chávez, whose sardonic wit challenges the historical, and turns it into the hysterical with lines like “Step right in, ladies and gents, step / right in and see the conjuror of the new / century, sample the wonders / he unveils. Years will wink past with a snap of his fingers; his magic / lantern will reveal the glories / of the century ahead, splendor / spread before you like a vast / unsettled plain” from the poem ”The Conjuror of the New Century.”

In Salazar’s “Piñón Nuts,” as Blanco grapples with being Cuban, Salazar tackles her “American-ness” cancelling out her “Mexican-ness”: “We begged him to teach us Spanish / but he wouldn’t. Here in the heart / of America, skin tones / and tongues were homogenous / as milk from purebred cows.”

In the “Fiction” section of this collection, readers are treated to works by Fred Arroyo, Kathleen de Azevedo, Stella Pope Duarte, Christine Granados, Jack Lopez, Patricia Preciado Martin, Ana Consuelo Matiella, Brauilio Muñoz and Serbe Troncosco. The characters and plotlines are primarily centered around glaring examples of “otherness”; belonging to two diametrically opposing worlds that play tug-of-war between being American and “Other,” never able to fully melt in America’s so-called melting pot.

The final section is “Nonfiction” — usually not for inclusion in a “literary” collection, but certainly a welcome change in this collection — like a gift wrapped in a big red bow. Kathleen J. Alcalá’s “otherness” is further complicated by her being Jewish and Mexican, “. . . Jews who didn’t know Hebrew, Indians who don’t pray to the morning star.” Ray González talks about home and borderlines, the constant challenge of dealing with an “us against them” mentality, while Luis Alberto Urrea comically yet deftly talks about growing up between two worlds: white, Protestant and Mexican that memorializes his family in such a way that makes them endearing to the reader.

In this bleak era of ethnic studies banning, Camino del Sol provides renewed hope for educators and professors who seek a text that will bring them both the familiar and established voices of the past, and the emerging and vibrant voices of the present. More importantly, it provides readers an invaluable resource that allows them to discover new names and learn new works on their own terms, making it an excellent addition to anyone’s literary collection.

RIGOBERTO GONZÁLEZ, an award-winning author and editor, was born in California and raised in Mexico, is the author of eight books and the editor of Xicano Duende: A Select Anthology of Alurista’s Poetry. He is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey.

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Source: Gabrielle David

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