New Bilingual Memoir Takes Readers on Lyrical Multicultural Journey
"This is not a memoir written outside the box; it is a memoir written to obliterate it."
– Publishers Weekly
Susana Chávez-Silverman, a woman living and communicating in multiple lands, conveys her cultural and linguistic displacement in a humorous, bittersweet, and even tangible way in her truly bilingual literary work, Killer Crónicas: Bilingual Memories, due out this month from the University of Wisconsin Press.
The meditative and lyrical pieces that make up the book combine poignant personal confession, detailed daily observation, and a memorializing drive that shifts across time and among geocultural spaces. The author's inventive and flamboyant use of Spanglish, a hybrid English-Spanish idiom, and her adaptation of the confessional "crónica" make this memoir compelling and powerful.
As evidenced in the following excerpt, Killer Crónicas confirms that there is no Latina voice quite like that of Susana Chávez-Silverman.
It is late en la sultry noche porteña de barrio. We begin to walk away, right next to the foam-flecked horses (they sweat right down to their hooves; rico el olor). Nos damos cuenta de que la perspectiva desde el comienzo de la carrera es, si cabe, even more thrilling. From here, we can sense the anticipation of riders and their mounts; the horses turn and twitch, reluctant or bored, y los jinetes intentan contenerlos, inspirarlos. They take off like a shot, four legs pumping together, rider crouched down on the haunches and then rising up, some of them, nearly vertical. Algunos caballos fustigados to within an inch of their lives, it seems- thwack se escucha el crop-mientras otros run like hell, simplemente porque sí. No látigo required.
The dancers have moved from chacarera and samba to tango now; la plaza está más atestada que nunca. The night is just beginning para los vecinos de Mataderos.
Chavez-Silverman began writing the chronicles that make up this book 2001, when, while working in Buenos Aires on a book about contemporary Argentine women's poetry, she began to send bilingual, punning “letters from the southern [cone] front” to colleagues and friends by email. Her friends and her editor eventually urged her to collect these intriguing missives into a book.
“Living in Buenos Aires, that gorgeous, turn of the century city in a country on the brink of (economic) collapse—home to many of the authors and artists I had long admired (Borges, Cortázar, Alfonsina Storni, Alejandra Pizarnik, and before them the foundational Romantics, Sarmiento and Echeverría)—brought out a sense of self, dis/placed yet oddly at home, in a cultural, linguistic and even tangible way,” says Chavez-Silverman. “In Buenos Aires, the fragmented parts of me, the voices, cultures, and places inside of me, rubbed up against each other and struck fire. I called my email missives “Crónicas,” inspired by the somewhat rough-hewn, journalistic, often fantastic first-hand accounts sent ‘home’ by the early conquistadores, and refashioned by modern-day counterparts such as Carlos Monsiváis, Elena Poniatowska and Cristina Pacheco.”
One of the book’s chronicles, “Anniversary Crónica,” inspired by the June 16th anniversary of both Susana’s parents’ wedding and that of the so-called “Soweto Riots” in South Africa, was awarded First Prize in Personal Memoir in the “Chicano Literary Excellence Contest” sponsored by the U.S. national literary magazine el Andar.
Chávez-Silverman is associate professor of romance languages and literatures at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. She is coeditor of "Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representations of Latinidad" and "Reading and Writing the Ambiente: Queer Sexualities in Latino, Latin American, and Spanish Culture." She can be contacted at (909) 621-8938.
To request a review copy of the book, contact the University of Wisconsin Press by phone at (608) 263-0734, by fax at (608) 263-1132 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.