Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing

Reveiw from: Lambda
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by Dan Lopez on June 27, 2011

In his introduction to Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing (University of Wisconsin Press), co-editor Lázaro Lima defines this slim volume’s scope as an opening statement in a growing conversation, one that confronts the bias of mainstream American cultural constructs and seeks “to envision a different kind of national culture.” It’s a bit like shooting at a moving target as what it means to be Latino and queer in America continues to evolve toward (presumably) some distant equilibrium. All the same, Lima and fellow editor Felice Picano have put together a tight collection of stories and critical thought chronicling the various ways we live today.

“Imitation of Selena” by Ramón García tells the tragic tale of Pesticida, an aging queen obsessed with the slain Tex-Mex singer, and her house of drag children in Corpus Christi, Texas. Cuban-American novelist Achy Obejas contributes “Kimberle,” a harrowing account of two Sapphic friends in an Indiana town yearly terrorized by a serial killer. Charles Rice-González depicts a group of trans bandits in the Bronx projects. Susana Chávez-Silverman’s “Magnetic Island, Sueño Cronica” is an epistolary story told in Spanglish, wonderfully illustrating the editors’ refusal to italicize non-English words on the grounds that Spanish is not a foreign language in the United States, but, rather, our second, unofficial language. It’s an important distinction, and one Lima and Picano stress. While selections like Uriel Quesada’s “I Leave Tomorrow, I Come Back Yesterday” appear here in translation, the majority of the work was written in English for an English-speaking audience. After all, this is not foreign literature. The anthology is designed to showcase a unique and emerging native literature, the “different kind of national culture” Lima references in the introduction. A literature being produced by LGBT writers whose perspective is enriched by a mother (or, often, grandmother) tongue that is Iberian in root and Caribbean/African/South & Central American in flavor, and that is consummately Americano.

EDITED By: Lázaro Lima and Felice Picano
University of Wisconsin Press 
June 2011 
LC: 2010041228 PS 288 pp  <click to buy>

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