Edited by Margarita Longoria
Hardcover (also available as an ebook), 9780593204979, 224 pgs.,
August 17, 2021
Living Beyond Borders is a passionate, entertaining, and informative anthology containing 20 works by prize-winning Mexican-American writers and artists who live in Texas and other areas of the United States.
Edited by South Texas book blogger and librarian Margarita Longoria, the story collection is aimed at young-adult readers. Older readers, however, also may find themselves being drawn into the coming-of-age moments, school situations, and family dramas spotlighted in the stories, essays, poems, and cartoons. Ms. Longoria writes: “The idea for this anthology arose when our heritage came under attack in the media.” She adds: “I wanted a collection of stories that represented what it means to me to be a Mexican-American living in America today. In these stories, I wanted hope, family, friendship, and empowerment to shine through and help heal this hate.”
Issues raised by the anthology’s contributors reflect many of the complexities faced today by Mexican-American teens and adults. For example, in an essay titled “Is Half Mexican-American, Mexican Enough?” Dallas-based author Alex Temblador notes that “it wasn’t until I went to college that I ever took interest in my Mexican-American identity.” She continues: “The hyphenated experience of being Mexican-American is wrought with so much confusion, especially among Mexicans who are second- or third-generation Americans. Even as their parents instill Mexican history and culture in them, immersing themselves in their American heritage is inevitable. It creates this identity where they feel too American for the Mexicans and too Mexican for the Americans.”
Kansas City children’s novelist Angela Cervantes focuses her short story “Yoli Calderon and Principal Hayes” on a Mexican-American student facing her Anglo school principal after a fight with a classmate. When Mr. Hayes tries to win her confidence by telling her he’s been to Cancun five times, Yoli retorts that she has never been south of the border. “I was born a few months after my dad sent for my mom to join him here,” she explains. “I have never known Mexico like they have, but somehow I’m proud of being from there just as much as I am proud of being an American. I really am. I’m a Mexican American. I don’t hyphenate it. I don’t call myself Hispanic. Latina is okay. Latinx is a little better. By calling myself Mexican American, I choose to claim Mexico—not reject it. It was my parents’ country. It’s also mine. Same with the United States. It’s mine, too.”
In “Filiberto’s Final Visit,” a short story by El Paso novelist Francisco X. Stork, a Mexican-American Vietnam War veteran helps a shy 16-year-old boy find dignidad, his dignity, at a crucial moment in his life when he is feeling nervous about both young love and recent taunts from a neighborhood gang. “Dignidad. It’s something we Mexicans living here in the US need to have,” Filiberto tells him. “We need to give value and worth to ourselves. Others won’t give it to us.”
Other topics explored in the anthology range from racial discrimination and the tribulations of changing schools, to ending a middle-school romance, and contemplating the border landscape itself.
The anthology’s contributors have all won awards for novels, stories, picture books, or other materials for middle-grade students and young adults. Living Beyond Borders is an age-appropriate work of noteworthy and engaging artistry.
Margarita Longoria is a lifelong bookworm, book blogger, and an award-winning high school librarian in South Texas. She is the founder of Border Book Bash: Celebrating Teens and Tweens of the Rio Grande Valley and served on state reading committees for the Texas Library Association. She grew up on the Texas/Mexico border known as the Rio Grande Valley. She lives with her family in Texas.