Latino Studies Gloria Anzaldúa
by
Margaret Boyle, Ilan Stavans
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 April 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 April 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0268

Introduction

Texas-born, Chicana activist Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (b. 1942–d. 2004) lived and wrote in provocation of borders, not only the geographic lines between the United States and Mexico but also those defining race, religion, gender, and sexuality. This theoretical posture and innovative and generative writing across both genres (essay, poetry, prose, picture book) and nation mark her as a key player in transnational and postcolonial feminism. Anzaldúa’s writing on embodiment, about her life as a lesbian and as a type I diabetic, have become key texts in queer theory and disability studies. Anzaldúa wrote in the linguistic nexus of Spanish and English, frequently code-switching throughout her writings in ways that called in future generations of bilingual readers. In Borderlands theory, a topic that evolves across several of her works most notably Borderlands/La Frontera, Anzaldúa refers frequently to the Nahautl word nepantla as representative of her lived experiences “in-between.” A word in circulation by the 16th century as seen in the Florentine Codex, nepantla engages with the experience of colonization and the dynamism of identity, both erasures and recoveries. Anzaldúa’s formative experiences with racial discrimination, land dispossession, and educational institutions sharply inflected her body of written work and interviews. She and her family worked as migrant farmers on the various ranches on Jesús Maria, and later in West Texas. She maintained a persistent but fraught relationship to educational institutions, actively seeking advanced degrees while negotiating with financial precarity and intellectual marginalization. Throughout graduate studies, Anzaldúa worked as an educator, from Pre-K through high school to university settings. In 1974, Anzaldúa began her work on a PhD in literature at the University of Texas at Austin while engaged with a variety of political groups, including MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán), farm worker protests, and feminist consciousness-raising groups. These intellectual and political engagements led her to publish her groundbreaking anthology of women-of color, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, with Chicana writer and activist Cherríe Moraga. In 1988 Anzaldúa began the PhD program in literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, but prioritized the demands of her professional life as a writer and speaker, returning to her dissertation again in 2001 and publishing her anthology, this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation. Gloria Anzaldúa died in May 2004 due to diabetes-related complications. She was posthumously awarded her PhD by the University of California-Santa Cruz and in 2005 the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa (SSGA) was established at the University of Texas at San Antonio. This bibliography was supported by the invaluable assistance of Norma Elia Cantú and Ella Rose.

Sole-Authored Works

Anzaldúa primarily wrote in collaboration with others, modeling her engagement with activist practices of solidarity, community building, and consciousness-raising. These works written by Anzaldúa alone mix memory and testimony with calls to action, documenting life at the geographic border between the United States and Mexico. The books remain deeply relevant and provocative in feminist, queer, and Latinx theories. Borderlands, for example, was named one of the thirty-eight best books of 1987 by the Library Journal, and in 2019, Performance Space New York conducted a “Marathon Reading” of the work, in recognition of episodes of mass incarceration of Central Americans at the US border: Anzaldúa 1981, Anzaldúa 2021 (originally published in 1987), Anzaldúa 2009, Anzaldúa 2015. Stavans and Augenbraum 1992 is one of the first anthologies to bring Anzaldúa’s work to a mainstream audience.

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers. Watertown, MA: Persephone Press, 1981.

    Written in 1979 and later published in the anthology This Bridge Called My Back, this letter serves as a call to women of color and other marginalized groups, and uses the first person as a way to persuasively connect with readers and empower other communities of writers to follow by example. In this and other works, she demonstrates how writing and narration are ways to claim power over one’s existence and story and respond to forms of oppression. Reprinted in Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2003).

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader. Edited by AnaLouise Keating. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822391272

    Edited posthumously, this anthology provides a through introduction to a Anzaldúa’s major works, organized chronologically over a thirty-year period, including experimental essays, poetry, prose, and previously unpublished autobiographical material. The reader also includes a glossary of key terms and concepts, a timeline of her life, and a brief introduction to each piece of writing.

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality. Edited by AnaLouse Keating. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv1220hmq

    Published roughly ten years after the author’s death, this collection of writing produced in the context of Anzaldúa’s doctoral dissertation tackles philosophical contributions to feminism, critical race, aesthetics, and ontology. Writing in both English and Spanish, the book also reflects on the contemporary moment, for example responding to the events of September 11 in the United States.

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Critical Edition. Edited by Ricardo F. Vivancos-Pérez and Norma Cantú. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2021.

    Originally published in 1987, this bilingual, semi-autobiographical work examines mestiza identity. Through a genre-defying fusion of poetry and prose, Anzaldúa describes borders between race, sexuality, gender, religion. The 2021 critical edition includes extensive archival research that provides additional insight into the production and reception and impact of this seminal text. Two full translations into Spanish have been published, in Mexico and Spain. The translators, respectively, are Norma Cantú (Borderlands/La frontera : la nueva mestiza, México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2015) and Carmen Valle Simón (Borderlands/La frontera : la nueva mestiza, Madrid: Capitán Swing, 2016). See the article “On Borderlands and Translation” by María Laura Spoturno (Spoturno 2020, cited under Articles and Chapters).

  • Stavans, Ilan, and Harold Augenbraum, eds. Growing Up Latino: Memoirs and Stories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

    A pioneer anthology that features Anzaldúa’s work in pan-Latino perspective. It is one of the first anthologies to bring one of her stories to a mainstream audience.

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