Friday, March 16, 2012

Anisa Onofre shared this on twitter and I find it interesting. Basically this is the same kind of argument I heard throughout graduate school while earning my doctorate. I was told by a professor that Chicano studies was not "real" literature and that I couldn't write a dissertation on it. This was in the late 90's.  Tony Stafford, chair of the dept. of English while I earned an M.F.A. said the same thing in front of an entire class of ChicanoLiterature  students and faculty while  I was teaching at the University of Texas at El Paso, hence the ending of my poem "Chico's tacos" about the paradoxical nature of that university. The irony of the university dept. chair sitting on the border stating that kind of stance was simply shocking to me, and it still is. The fact of the matter is that I am normally silent on this type of politics because I feel we are talking at times to a brick wall, but the fact that so many  good and solid books have been banned and this white educator is talking about Chicano studies as being dangerous and separatist is the same old worn out rhetoric that I heard at two Texas Universities. I understand the fear of it as there is often intense anger directed at white people which is unjust in that it is a huge blanked placed over all white people. But this is unacceptable and I have nothing but respect for Tony Diaz and his caravan. Hiding this literature is dangerous for young minds, and keeps in place the false hierarchy that Anglo-Saxon history and literature is more important than marginalized literature. There are different standards, different intentions and though most good literature does work to elaborate and delve into what it means to be human, Chicano literature can not be hidden from Chicano kids. Dagoberto Gilb's books are nothing but good literature. I had enough of that in my educational experience-- an endless unbearable silence that leads one to question their own experiences and their own value as individuals and hence even at times their own writing.

And now we have specifications that work should not be linear, that narrative is old and over-hashed and so forth. We must fight to keep our voices out there, and it is simply an exhausting fight. Much of my time has been spent questioning over-zealous and radical Chicana/o literature that is angry and polemic which excludes those who write for a literary purpose rather than a polemical purpose, but seriously, Dagoberto Gilb and Rodolfo Anaya? Literary talent matters and some Chicano writers are stellar, and they are writing just as good as any contemporary voices out there. I acknowledge that some of it is trite and appropriates the subaltern for attention and to speak for those who can't speak, but the fact is none of it should be banned.

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