*Why you should read this: Because it’s the weekend, and while you’re waiting for the Superbowl to begin (or not) this is a good option to pass the time. Because in these days of Trumpian reality reading Mexican and Mexican-American authors is an act of resistance. VL
Now that Donald Trump is president, a lot of horrible things are happening. One of these, of course, is the executive order he signed last week, reinforcing his promise to “build a wall” on the Mexican-American border. Now, let’s set the (non)practicality of this monstrosity and the freaking-out about the price of avocados aside for the moment, because above all else, this wall is a symbol. Mexico: out, it says. America: in.
But cultural contact with Mexico—like cultural contact with almost any other country, because we don’t live in a vacuum, so why pretend we do—actually makes America better, not worse. Safer, not more dangerous. Knowledge in general tends to do that. Case in point: some of the marvelous books coming out of Mexico—and from Mexican-American writers—in recent years. Now, of course, a wall won’t exactly keep literature out. After all, there’s that pesky internet to consider. But the psychology of the wall—the message that the people and products coming from Mexico are inherently less-than, that these books are by “bad hombres” from whom we must protect ourselves—actually might. So just as a reminder—and perhaps as a gift guide for any readers you know who might for some reason be supporters of said wall—here is a selection of great works by contemporary Mexican and Mexican-American writers. I, for one, celebrate the freedom to read them.
Valeria Luiselli, Faces in the Crowd, trans. Christina MacSweeney
This slim novel is a study in fragmentary feeling, a book of overlapping fictions—the story of a woman telling her own story, and translating newly discovered work by a Mexican poet, except maybe that when she’s doing that she is also telling her own story, or possibly a ghost story. To say what it is “about” is somewhat pointless, because what it is about is the nature of reality, identity, storytelling and time. So, basically everything.
Yuri Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World, trans. Lisa Dillman
In Signs Preceding the End of the World, Herrera, whom Francisco Goldman has called “Mexico’s greatest novelist” has written a lyric myth of a novel: the story of a young Mexican woman who crosses the US border, hoping to bring her brother back to their mother—and to deliver a package from someone who may not have their family’s best interests at heart.