Summer School: Your Official Chicana Literature Syllabus is Here

Summer is almost here, which means a change of seasons, a change of schedule (if you’re lucky) and a whole lot more time to bury your head in a good book. Back in the day a summer syllabus was more of a burden than a blessing, but these days we’re open to any excuse to flex our intellectual muscle, escape into a new literary world, and maybe even learn a thing or two about the history, the cultural importance and the empowerment of Chicana women and authors. Consider this your Chicana literature syllabus, aka your agenda for the next few months.

Chicana literature, aka literature written by Mexican-American authors emerging from the Chicana Feminist movement, has been around for decades. For many years Latina authors have sparked conversations about tough topics, have shed light on harsh realities of life as Latina women, have helped others navigate family life, cultural confusion and racism, and have empowered others to be proud of their heritage and who they truly are.

Gloria Anzaldúa
Photo Credit Gloria Anzaldúa

While Chicana literature first appeared several centuries ago, even dating back to the 1800s and with cultural influences from as far back as the 16th century, it gained a significant boost in the 1960s, during the Mexican American civil rights movement. During this time Chicana authors emerged and used their voice to raise awareness of social injustices, feminism, the challenges of living as a Latina during those tough times, and more. And even today, several decades later, these works are seminal, powerful, and incredibly necessary for everyone, regardless of your ethnicity, background, gender or age.

Today, more than ever, these impactful, honest and extremely gifted Chicana writers need to be heard. Considering the current debate on immigration reform, the hatred spread by our own country’s administration and the terrifying state of the world — a world filled with fear, inequality and uncertainty — it seems vital to our spiritual survival that we read what these women have to say. Their works continue to inspire and contribute to a rich and diverse literary world that explores Latina culture and history through poetry, narrative and everything in between.

In short, these Chicana authors are essential to the survival and betterment of us all, and their work will continue to influence cultures throughout Latin America, America and the rest of the world. Their words inspire feminists and their stories empower us all. And while every author has a unique voice, and every story has its own special tone, plot, message and meaning, one thing that the much of Chicana literature has in common is that the women behind the books are all strong, empowering and extremely talented artists with something important to say.

So grab your reading glasses and get ready to snuggle up with a good book, because summer is almost in session and this is your official Chicana literature syllabus.  

7Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli is one of the most celebrated Mexican writers today, and her work is complicated, compelling, beautiful, haunting and impossible not to ignore. She creates work in both English and Spanish, but her novel Faces in the Crowd tells the tale of a young mother living in Mexico City who writes a novel looking back on her time spent working as a translator of obscure works at a small independent press in Harlem. She becomes obsessed with a Mexican poet from the days of the Harlem Renaissance, and as she becomes immersed in his work and her own, she deals with issues of identity, memories, what is real and what is a lie.