NEW BORDER VOICES by Brandon D. Shuler


An Anthology
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A mixed bag of writings from and about the Rio Grande country of Ojinaga, Terlingua and suchlike places.

There are a few problems with this anthology, and two emerge in the title: First, this is not about the U.S.–Mexico border but only the Texas–Mexico border, which limits the possibilities; second, though Texas has a rich literary culture, a great many of the voices here are much-anthologized (Ray Gonzalez, Pat Mora, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith) rather than “new.” The editors’ introductory observations tend to the aridly academic—e.g., “What is arising from the Borderlands today is a resistance to the imagined ideal of a border itself and to the strict codification of pure English and pure Spanish”—though folklorist and literary scholar José Limón places some of the issues in context with refreshing plainspokenness: The border is different from the interiors of either Texas or the neighboring Mexican states, Larry McMurtry is a better spokesman for Dallas than Laredo, and the racial divide between Hispanos and Anglos shows no signs of narrowing anytime soon. This Pushcart-ish collection of stories, essays and poems, though with plenty of newcomers, is long on those divisions, longer still on righteous indignation (in that regard, René Saldaña’s essay on being rousted at a border crossing is a marvel), and short on universalizing—and memorable—art. When that art does come, it is often through the hands of the old-timers (Gonzalez: “When I was younger, I believed in / the collar lizards that overran the desert”; Mora: “Daiquiri became the eagle’s name, and I decided I’d best have the ingredients on hand in case I got desperate—and I don’t mean the ice version sans rum”).

Students of Texas literature will want this as an index of both up-and-coming and canonical writers (absent Benjamin Sáenz and Cormac McCarthy). For students of borderlands literature writ large, a more general collection extending westward awaits its gatherer.

Pub Date: April 7th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62349-125-3
Page count: 292pp
Publisher: Texas A&M Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2014


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