ABR speaker offers perspectives on Mexican-American literature

April 21, 2011 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated April 20, 2011 at 11:21 p.m.

Chicano writer Rolando Hinojosa-Smith

Chicano writer Rolando Hinojosa-Smith

The conversation ranged from powerful accounts of the Korean War, to comical anecdotes about growing up with a dad in politics.

Rolando Hinojosa-Smith had the full auditorium at the University of Houston-Victoria both front-of-the-seat engaged and laid-back laughing as the final speaker for this year's American Book Review series.

"Rolando Hinojosa has been around for a long time. He's a prolific writer, incredible speaker, and what a charmer," said Macarena Hernandez, a UHV professor and managing director of Centro Victoria.

After reciting poems and prose, some of which he'd never before debuted, Hinojosa took questions, most of which focused on the author's experience in and knowledge of Mexican-American literature.

"Rolando Hinojosa-Smith has seen the evolution of the Mexican-American community in literature since before the Chicano movement, so it's great that our students and the rest of the community got to hear him," Hernandez said. "Rolando can give you a historical context to the Mexican-American experience in the United States."

Hinojosa's talk coincided with Centro Victoria's Community Pachanga, a four-day celebration that introduced the community to the Mexican-American organization.

After being prompted by a question from the audience, Hinojosa delved into a brief history of Mexican-American literature and said organizations such as UHV's new center didn't exist to support the first writers.

There was "a huge population whose history had always been written by someone else," he said. "It was 'for,' but it wasn't 'by.'"

Hinojosa said he's built his career as a writer on filling the voids he sees in Mexican-American literature.

When asked what genre has been his favorite to write, Hinojosa said it's whatever he's doing at the time.

He said he asks himself, "What does Mexican literature need?"

That's led him to write everything from fragmentary novels to detective stories to an epistolary novel, in both Spanish and English.

"When a kid comes in and wants to write ... he knows he can write whatever he wants to," Hinojosa said.



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