On Nepantla Familias
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On Nepantla Familias

On Nepantla Familias

On Nepantla Familias

Cover of Nepantla Familias
Cover of Nepantla Familias, courtesy of Texas A&M University Press and The Witliff Collections.

WE ARE PLEASED to share this interview with Sergio Troncoso, editor of Nepantla Familias: An Anthology of Mexican-American Literature on Families in between Worlds (Texas A&M University Press and The Wittliff Collections, 2021). The anthology will be available on April 2, 2021. —Ed.

Ofrenda Magazine (OM): Tell us the story behind the Nepantla Familias. What inspired you to initiate the book as a project and bring together these particular voices in the anthology?

Sergio Troncoso (ST): I really wanted to create an anthology that would showcase new work from our great community of Mexican American writers and also to focus on this theme of Nepantla, living in between two cultures, languages, and psychologies. The Wittliff Collections in San Marcos, Texas, funded the project and Texas A&M Press is our publisher. Of the thirty works in Nepantla Familias, twenty-five are unpublished, and these works delve deeply into this liminal existence of many Mexican Americans as it happens through our families.

The experience of Nepantla is also a universal experience, as I write in the introduction: many people live in between the old and the new, between the culture of your parents and a new culture you are half-adopting, between languages, and even between disparate geographies. So I think this collection will have broad appeal.  We have essays, poems, and short stories from David Dorado Romo, Sandra Cisneros, Diana Lopez, Octavio Quintanilla, Reyna Grande, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Helena Maria Viramontes, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, and more! These are all writers I have admired for many years.

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OM: I love the “familias” lens—it is unique yet also critical to cultural understandings of “nepantla.” When you were envisioning this volume, which idea came to you first—nepantla or familias? Which idea grew out of the other?

ST: I think the concept of Nepantla has been with me all of my life, and when I read Gloria Anzaldua many years ago I was struck by how philosophically incisive her ideas were on Nepantla, how important. I have long been interested in philosophy, and much of my work can be considered philosophy in literature: I write stories, essays that I hope are not just entertaining but that delve deep into philosophical issues of the self, how we belong and don’t belong, what is a community, and how a community disintegrates and reforms, even across borders. So Anzaldua helped me to understand many issues.

I wanted to display the many permutations of Nepantla as it happens in our familias, because of course that’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, where we make choices about what we adopt, what we discard, the hybrid selves we create, the conflicts and possibilities of choosing or rejecting heritages, and so on. Think about the title of our anthology: Nepantla Familias: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature on Families in between Worlds. Nahuatl. Spanish. And English. The very title exemplifies the many borders Mexican Americans have crossed, and are crossing, every day. Nepantla, in my mind, is about living on these borders, in this in-between, as a matter of course.

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OM: Who is Nepantla Familias ultimately written for, and what impact do you hope it will have on this audience?

ST: Our anthology Nepantla Familias is first and foremost for our Mexican American community of readers, for those whose families have been in the United States hundreds of years, and for those who are crossing over to start a life in the United States right now. I certainly hope these essays, poems, and short stories reach in particular the younger generations of Mexican Americans, those who have lived in the United States and are struggling to become a community en este lado, fitting in and not quite fitting in. I think these readers will see the many permutations of trying to adopt, discard, create selves from many different psychological, linguistic, and even geographical places.

But I also think this anthology should appeal to an audience who is not Mexican American, but who either wants to understand the Mexican American experience of Nepantla, or who wants to understand how they have also lived in between the culture of their parents and a new culture in a new country, for example. This is the quintessential immigrant experience, but it is also the experience of someone falling in love, for example, with a person not from their background, culture, race, ethnicity, religion, or even geography. These examples indicate Nepantla is a universal experience of living in-between and creating and struggling to create a new existence on a new border. So many readers will identify with Nepantla Familias.

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OM: Ofrenda Magazine’s mission is to inspire ancestral connection, healing, and spiritual creativity—what we could describe as “nepantla spirituality.” In what ways might our audience of self-identified Latinx and Xicanx people find this book healing?

ST: I think our anthology Nepantla Familias will be ‘healing’ for your readers in several ways. First, the book will give many creative examples of how Mexican Americans have navigated the many worlds they live in, the many balance beams they strive to stand on. In these examples—some depicting success on this metaphorical ‘balance beam,’ many depicting more of an uneasy understanding of the struggle to balance, others depicting the failure to find your place on the ‘balance beam’ of Nepantla—readers might be healed because they may also see themselves and know they are not alone.

Second, I think readers will also be healed by knowing, and experiencing, that living in-between (languages, cultures, heritages, traditions) is also the most vivid kind of living. Vivid doesn’t necessarily mean ‘easy.’ What it means, in my mind, is that you as a person do not take who you can be for granted, but you must make the messy choices of how to balance yourself, how to choose what to keep from one culture and what to discard from another, and how to create an unsteady, but vivid self that doesn’t quite always get comfortable. In my mind, a life that continually crosses borders and even lives in between borders is a lived life. That constant struggle is what helps us to appreciate who we are as unique selves.

Find Nepantla Familias and other books by Ofrenda contributors in our bookshop.

Find Nepantla Familias and other books by Ofrenda contributors in our bookshop.

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