Isabel Alvarez Borland

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:

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The genre of the memoir is nearly as old as writing and dates back to at least the 5th-century “Confessions” of St. Augustine, although it was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that the memoir became one of the dominant literary forms in the long history of American immigrant autobiographical writing. A historical panorama of the Hispanic memoir would also date back to the middle of the 19th century, although this review article is devoted exclusively to autobiographical memoirs written by Latino and Latina writers between 1960 and 2010. The Latino memoir is an important document reflecting the history of Latinos in the United States. Yet, given the separate histories and diverse experiences of Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cuban Americans—to name only the three major groups of writers residing in the United States today—it is not surprising to find that each represents quite a distinct literary expression. Writers of Spanish heritage raised in the United States, such as Chicanos and Puerto Ricans from New York, write a literature of political engagement, speaking of issues in their lives as minority groups within American society. Compared to the ideological dimension historically associated with these literatures, the Cuban American corpus as a whole has not displayed a clearly delineated political stance. Yet, there are also similarities in these memoirs. The bicultural and sometimes bilingual memoirs produced by all Latinos evolve from an autobiographical style that responds to needs outside the mainstream tradition of American immigrant autobiography. These self-narratives align themselves with other ethnic autobiographical writings that do not so much aspire to achieve the traditional ideal of the American Dream but use the memoir in order to “talk back” to the American Dream. At times, these writings attempt to redefine and expand just what being Latino in America really means. This is important because there are many well-known autobiographical fictions in the Latino literary tradition that fall outside the boundaries of this review, such as Junot Díaz’s Drown (1996), Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1984), Cristina García’s Dreaming in Cuban (1992), and many others too numerous to mention.

Article.  4859 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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