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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Negotiating Borders and Identity in two Latina American Novels: Sandra Cisneros and Stella Pope Duarte

Dr Mary McGann.

The main cannonical tradition of white male American Literature has often emphasized the rugged individualism and heroics of adventurers, middle class businessman, or outcasts (Cooper, Twain, Updike), but in recent years American literature has been broadened and enhanced by many American literatures written by new generations of ethnic and immigrant writers. Sandra Cisneros and Stella Pope Duarte are two second generation Latina writers whose families emigrated from Mexico in the twentieth century. Their novels reflect the many cultural and psychological borders the families and children negotiate as they live and grow in their adopted country. The characters in both Cisneros' fiction and Duarte's novel and short stories never lose their hold on their native culture/identity. Both Cisneros and Duarte reject a male individualism and pragmatic realism for a blend of magical realism and surrealism and Latino and American cultures. Recent novels of both writers illustrate the complex struggles of bi-cultural children journeying between Mexico and Chicago or making a rag-tag pilgrimage to the Vietnam Wall, thirty years after losing a brother/son in Vietnam. In both novels, the novelists create characters who have their feet planted firmly in American culture while looking for "Azatlan," the mythical treasure land sought by Mexicans. Both novelists seem to recognize the crassness and coldness of white American culture while seeking solace in the religious mysticism and magical spirituality of their mothers, grandmothers, and community shamans. Both novelists reject iAmerican individualism for community, pragmatism for magical realism.


Dr Mary McGann  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of English
University of Indianapolis

Mary McGann received her PH.D. from Indiana University,Bloomington. She has taught in Warsaw, Poland where she served as Associate Director of the American Studies Center at Warsaw University (1981-83), Ohio State University, and the University of Indianapolis, Indianapolis and Athens GR campuses.

  • Latina American Literature
  • Identity
  • Negotiating Cultural BordersPost-Vitenam America
  • Magical Realism
Person as Subject
  • Duarte, Stella Pope Cisneros, Sandra

(30 min Conference Paper, English)