This morning I was referred to this Guardian Global Development post (let’s call it what it is). I can’t describe the sense of despair I feel when I read the caption “The best books on Mexico: Down the Rabbit Hole, The Years With Laura Díaz, and Mexico: Democracy Interrupted.” It’s not a joke. They are telling you, reader, that those three books are “the best on Mexico”.
Really. Now, allow me to be categorically ranty here: a bit of common sense can make us realise that “best of” lists are always a joke and cannot possibly be objective in any way. Nevertheless, this being the Guardian (read worldwide, and not only in Britain, for this is not still 1910) the old spectre of the subaltern (or the “Global South” subject) being unable to represent his/her own culture within the dominant (economic, cultural) power reappears.
A short autobiographical note: in the schools I worked in Mexico Mexicans had to have qualifications to get a teaching job, but Americans and Brits in gap years seemed not to need them. The rest of us natives had to climb the steps (mined with dead bodies) of the steep academic meritocracy ladder. (To be fair those were dark times –some 15, 20 years ago– and who knows if that is still the case). When I lived there, if you needed someone in Mexico to talk about British literature you looked for a Brit– because being British meant you knew something about your own culture. In Britain today, if you need someone to talk about Mexican literature… well, why would you need a Mexican to do that? Having been born in a “developing” nation means you are perceived as a toddler forever, unable to speak for yourself, inarticulate, ignorant and inexperienced. The grown-ups always know what’s best for you and therefore speak for you.
But I digress. As a quick Friday morning post, below my own “where to start” list of books about Mexico. I am assuming, like the Grauniad did, that you’d need books more or less widely available in English, so this is not a “best of”, and the list of books would be different if I could include books that are currently (sadly) only available in Spanish, Mexico’s official national language. I don’t have time to write small synopses for each book, but I have provided links. You know how to find out more.
Anyway, here it is, for your Christmas shopping list…
Where the Air is Clear, by Carlos Fuentes (1958)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
Original title: La región más transparente
Original title: Nadie me verá llorar
Here is Tijuana! by Fiamma Montezemolo, René Peralta, Heriberto Yépez (2006)
Paperback, 192 pages
Black Dog Publishing Ltd