Saturday, December 16, 2006
Bordering Fires: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a Literature
Bordering Fires is a literary collection with a message. It poses that Mexico is an idea that goes beyond the country's treaty boundaries. People of Mexican heritage still belong to the common culture whether they live within its borders, have been born in the United States from legal or illegal immigrants, or are in exile in any country. While these people share many traits with other modern people, they do have a unique cultural identity, which Bordering Fires tries to define through fiction, poetry, and essays.
Bordering Fires is open to criticism. First, its editor Christina Garcia is not Mexican. Second, there are only twenty literary voices, who certainly do not account for every Mexican viewpoint. Still, the collection counters many misconceptions about the country and showcases its diversity. It is a good starting collection for a study Mexican literature.
Librarians and readers will recognize some of the authors, including Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, and Sandra Cisneros. Many of the others will be unfamiliar. The beauty of anthologies is the introduction of new authors to readers through selected pieces.
My favorite story is "Major Aranda's Hand" by Alfonso Reyes, which is as creepy as anything written by Edgar Allan Poe. "I Speak of the City" by Octavio Paz is a poem that I like that is in the tradition of Walt Whitman in structure but is distinctly Mexican in spirit. "Excerpt from Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail" is an essay by Ruben Martinez that should be read by anyone studying U. S. border policy.
I felt some confusion reading several of the pieces which seemed to be memoirs or biographies but could have been fiction. The editor did not label works, and readers must research them to identify fact and fable. Some of the people profiled do not really exist, but they easily could have.
Bordering Fires is an inexpensive paperback, probably used in some college literature classes. Some stories may offend some readers. Public libraries should consider it.
Bordering Fires: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a Literature. New York: Vintage Books, 2006. ISBN 1400077184