American women are forging a new literary canon

American women are forging a new literary canon
Fecha de publicación: 
20 December 2023
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Some women writers in Latin America are shifting away from the magic realism that defined the 20th Century literary boom and instead focusing on the raw realities of sexism, violence and displacement.

The big picture: Colombian writer Pilar Quintana, Ecuadorian writer and journalist María Fernanda Ampuero and Mexican author Cristina Rivera Garza are among the writers leading the next generation.

"Abyss" by Quintana focuses on Claudia, an impressionable 8-year-old girl who navigates a world in which her quiet father and namesake mother are in a loveless marriage.

  • Claudia watches as her mother battles depression, has a short but steamy affair and solves the mystery of a friend who disappeared in the Colombian jungle.
  • The novel, a finalist this year for a National Book Award in the U.S., centers on the limited options for Colombian women in the early 1980s.

"Human Sacrifice" by Ampuero is a collection of short stories about women battling machismo, racism, violence and social isolation.

  • In one story, an undocumented woman in the U.S. is held hostage by a violent man who responds to an ad she placed to tell his story.
  • Another story focuses on a grandmother who warns her granddaughter not to answer the calls of a "whistle" outside her bedroom window. The sound is believed to come from the devil, but it turns out it's something more realistic that can ruin a woman's independence.
  • Ampuero doesn't shy away from a feminist critique of economic hardships and the lives of migrants.

"Liliana's Invincible Summer: A Sister's Search for Justice," a nonfiction book by Rivera Garza, follows her quest to seek justice for her sister's murder three decades later.

  • Rivera Garza took her inspiration from the feminist movements tackling gender-based violence to try to resolve a painful memory but also uncover a society that ignores it.
  • The book was also a finalist for a 2023 National Book Award.

Context: Magic realism depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy.

  • In this form of literature, for example, a very old man with enormous wings or talking trees all have political purposes.
  • The new works by Ampuero, Quintana and Rivera Garza ditch that concept. They come as Latin America grows more secular and as men no longer dominate the region's contemporary literary canon.

Between the lines: Literary critics still haven't agreed on what to call the new women-led literary movement.

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