Friday, August 1, 2008

Latina Book Review: Border-Line Personalities

Border-line Personalities proved to be a great read. Topics such as mother-daughter relationships, family secrets, being bilingual, ethnic pride and denial, raising kids, sexuality, love, and careers are all discussed by 20 different Latina writers. Although the viewpoints presented in this collection of essays are varied, there is a clear sense of some commonality among Latinos.

Several points hit home for me in this book. One of them, el qué dirán (the "what will they think/say") is so prevalent in the lives of Latinas; many of us are raised by a mami who warns us not to embarrass her, the family, and ourselves by "non-traditional" or "unacceptable" behaviors and decisions. This proves to be a source of internal conflict for Latinas who struggle to be true to their more modern and independent, American selves.

Another topic that emerged in these selections was that of labeling and stereotypes. Often, we are incorrectly called Spanish, when in fact some of us are immigrants from or descendants of Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Chile, Argentina, and all of the other Spanish-speaking countries that form Central and South America. Many of us are born in the United States. When I'm asked "what are you?" (yes, people do ask) I reply that I am American-born, and that my parents are Bolivian. I identify with both cultures. I speak Spanish, but I am not Spanish.

One of the essays reminded me of a disappointing conversation I suffered with my college roommate many years ago. She seemed to think I was a "good" Hispanic because I did not "act like one". I remember her saying something about "those people", and how I didn't look like them, or "talk fast" like them.

So what is this term Latina all about? For me, and the writers in Border-Line Personalities, it's a feeling, an outlook, an attitude, a way of life, a source of pride. Latinas relate to each other on another level because of the way we've been raised, the similarities in our different cultures, because of what is expected of us, and because of the way we're perceived in the greater picture of American life. Latinas continue to redefine themselves while also contributing positively to the forward movement of their families and their communities.

Want to read this book? I'll be glad to send it to you. Comment on this post by Monday, August 4, and mention if you are interested in receiving my well-kept copy. I will select a winner and mail the book to you.


Stella said...

Hi Cassy, I have just awarded you with the "Arte y Pico" award which recognizes blogs for their creativity and insipiration. There are more details in my blog. It is a great way to encourage each other. Congrats!

The Fearless Blog said...

Great Cassy

"She seemed to think I was a "good" Hispanic because I did not "act like one". I remember her saying something about "those people", and how I didn't look like them, or "talk fast" like them." --unfortunately if you are "different" --last name, skin color, nationality...someone may (because I refuse to generalize) have a preconceived notion of what you "should be" "should look like" or "should act like." But I think that's true of anyone who has little knowledge or experience. For example, a northerner may stereotype a southerner even though both share the same race, nationality and often times religious belief.

Funny but I am not sure I know how a "good Hispanic" acts. Heck...I am not sure I know what good means. Good is such a vague word that means something different for everyone. In the end, I don't think its a race or ethnic issue. Sometimes, anything that is foreign or unusual in some way creates a sense of imbalance. My point--perhaps because I am surrounded by such a diverse group of people literally from all over the world, from countries I never knew existed, these assertions don't bother me. I see them as a challenge, an opportunity to educate.

Great post...and as always a pleasure to read.

Fran said...

At the moment my "to be read" pile is higher than I like. I need to hop to it but haven't been reading lately. I seem to be distracted. However, I do like the bit of competition you added to your blog by giving away a prize, the book. Great way to share and connect with others.

Suzanne Mateus said...

Hi Cassy,
Your blog has inspired me to develop mine some more. I noticed you are interested in Latina writers. My sister has recently got her first book published, Las Ninas. Its about our childhood growing up in the USA with Mexican immigrant parents.

You posted a comment on my blog months ago. I had been meaning to come back to yours and this time around I noticed all the different links and interests, all of which inspired me. Congratulations on your award mujer!!!

My sis's website to learn more about her book:

Suzanne Mateus