Latino lit

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday August 2, 2011
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Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing, edited by Lazaro Lima and Felice Picano; Univ. of Wisconsin Press, $22.95

Lazaro Lima, an author and university professor, and well-known, prolific writer Felice Picano have teamed up together to present Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing, an impressive collection of stories by Latino LGBTQ writers that seeks to "provide a timely and representative archive of queer erary and cultural memory."

Lima's scholarly introduction is a notably smart and lively assessment of the state of Latino culture, and discusses the true intent and creative nature of Latino writing, which, he notes, can often be considered "narrative acts against oblivion."

The 17 stories included here highlight the spice of love and relationships and, most often, the conundrum of communication breakdown between Hispanic and non-Hispanic cultures. Cuban-American author and blogger Achy Obejas opens the volume with "Kimberle," a tension-tinged tale of two women in a bucolic Indiana town who "reeked of prey" as a serial killer stalks the area. Columnist and public speaker Daisy Hernandez offers "Shorty," a melodrama of Puerto Rican lesbians that begins with a salsa-dancing night on the town and ends with a tearful misunderstanding. "Imitation of Selena" is Ramon Garcia's short but potent story of "Pesticida," a "big, fat ex-70s chola drag queen who was benefactress to a stable of about 20 Modesto drag queens."

There are no duds in the collection; all of the stories collected here have something to offer in the way of introspection, variety, and entertainment. Letters and e-mail form the crux of tales involving communication in Tatiana de la Tierra's "Porcupine Love," which traces the electronic passages between two cross-country, long-distance estranged lovers. Susana Chavez-Silverman's "Magnetic Island Sueno Cronica," a dramatic story formed through letters, is wonderfully written in Spanglish, which may or may not be a challenge for uninitiated readers. Texas-born author Lucy Marrero closes out the book with her engaging, transformative story of "Arturo, Who Likes to Shave His Legs in the Snow."

With the introduction of this collection that hopefully will become a recurring series, editors Lima and Picano are obviously working hard to break down the barriers of bias between races, and bring society closer toward understanding what it really means to be queer and Latino in America today. This achievement is made even more universal in that it is accomplished through art.