Dominican-American Literature

Silvio Torres-Saillant

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Dominican-American Literature

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  • History of the Americas
  • US Cultural History


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Scholarship on the literary production of Dominicans in the United States has grown steadily since the late 1980s, when scholars of Dominican descent began to make a case for the inclusion of their writings in Latino literature. While individuals of Dominican ancestry had written in the United States at least since the start of the 20th century, a cadre of literary artists with a sense of the cultural meaning of their location “in the United States” as opposed to “in the Dominican Republic” did not emerge until the massive immigration of people from the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. The death of the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, whose government had limited the population’s mobility to foreign destinations, the passage by the US Congress of the 1965 Immigration Act, which increased immigrant quotas from the Caribbean and other parts of the Third World, and the US military invasion of 1965 to “prevent another Cuba” all figure as the principal causes of the “great exodus.” With the cities of New York; Providence, Rhode Island; and Lawrence, Massachusetts, serving initially as their principal destinations, Dominicans soon formed neighborhoods mostly in the Northeast. By the late 1970s the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights had become the mecca of Dominican life in the country and a hub of writers. There emerged the first Spanish-language literary magazines, literary groups, and anthologies. With the arrival on the literary scene of authors of Dominican ancestry working in English and publishing in mainstream venues, the literature of this group began to attract critical attention. Julia Alvarez published her collection of poems Homecoming in 1984. Then her novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent (1991) made her a household name. The triumphant debut collection of short fiction Drown (1996) by Junot Díaz, who subsequently added a Pulitzer Prize to his credit with the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), further increased the public appeal of writers of Dominican descent. The first-rate poetry of Rhina P. Espaillat, whose literary practice preceded the formation of Dominican neighborhoods in New York, and the compelling prose fiction of Loida Maritza Pérez, Angie Cruz, Ana-Maurine Lara, Annecy Báez, and Nelly Rosario have made it increasingly common for scholars to work on this literary production. The vigorous productivity of Hispanophone authors—from Marianela Medrano to Yrene Santos, Juan Tineo, and Miriam Ventura––has attracted less scholarly consideration. The hybrid writings of Josefina Báez, who moves from English to Spanish and vice versa, have elicited substantial interest by literary critics.

Article.  11832 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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