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.