The purpose of this book is to present a selection of Chicano literature and place it into several broader Hispanic contexts: Mexican, Puerto-Rican (Island and Mainland) and Latin-American. The vastness of this scope is suggested but by no means accomplished by the anthology’s title: Chicano Literature: text and context.
In a rather florid introductory note, the authors relate the scarcity of published Chicano material to an “exclusionist and intolerant American society” (p. xxv). They promise to include a rich variety of literary forms and themes that would encompass different experiences of the Chicano heritage as expressed in its literature.
The book is also intended to present the selected material as a challenge to the traditional definitions of literature. It supposedly challenges the estabhshed purist and static views of literature and the conformity of pre-established literary and linguistic norms.
It is therefore not surprising that the anthology covers selections from traditional literary genres as well as some more unorthodox material: popular corridos, folk literature, poetry, stories, theater; and a spectrum of varied authors: poets, novelists, students, migrant workers, and prisoners in federal jails.
The book is organized into four units. The first three parts deal with Chicano literature as expressed in three major themes of the Chicano experience: social protest in “Analizando, satirizando, reclamando: La protesta social,” Chicano culture in “Lo mero principal,” and the migratory experience in “Dejando huehas: Caminos de la migración.” The fourth part of the book consists of Mexican, Puerto-Rican, and Latin American selections of prose and poetry and is entitled “Literatura de la Raza: The Context of Chicano Literature.” However, the four parts do not have validity and impressiveness as a unit. One feels that this division is too arbitrary, artificial, and disorganized, and that the selection of the Latin American material was done in a rather haphazard way.
By and large the major weakness of the anthology is the confusion and disorganization of a subjective interpretation of the literary background. One finds Mexican texts also included in the first three parts of the book and they give the impression that the authors have either chosen them at random or yielded to special subjective enthusiasms or biases.
The book is aimed at the Chicano reader although the authors state that it would also be interesting to other readers. The majority of texts, if not originally written in English are accompanied by an English translation. This, however, is not consistent. The authors have left some of the Spanish texts without the accompanying English translation, hoping that the excellence of the texts will function as a stimulus for the Chicano reader to master Spanish. This inconsistency, however, only augments the confusion and disorder of the book.
The anthology’s contribution—and it is a real one—lies in the variety of good Chicano material that it contains, collected from conventional literary works and from reviews and journals of difficult access. It brings together in a somewhat chaotic fashion a broad spectrum of Chicano literature and writers.