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Arms of America: Latina Literary Re-Interventions & Reinventions


As the fiftieth anniversary of testimonio approaches in 2016, Arms of America reflects on the aftermath of states of emergency and reevaluates the continuous development of the genre. Drawing on the retrospective nonlinear women's narratives about Central America--including the writings of Claribel Alegr�a, Gioconda Belli, Demetria Mart�nez, and Ana Castillo--I argue that such testimonial texts re-intervene in the war of words, historical silencing, as cultural memories and timeless consciousness-raising tools. Contesting the claim that testimonio has an expiration date predicated on immediate crisis, my readings of mixed-genre testimonies such as Alegr�a's Ashes of Izalco (1966) and Belli's The Inhabited Woman (1988) together with newly written works like Mart�nez's Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana (2005) and Castillo's Psst: I Have Something to Tell You, Mi Amor (2005) reveal the ways in which wartime and postwar testimonial texts alike recover hidden histories related to the body from labor in the globalized garment industry, to sexual agency within revolutionary movements, to the inner war of depression, to torture traceable to the School of the Americas. The inclusion of U.S. Latina testimonial writers is meant to engage in a transhemispheric dialogue that complicates former approaches to this decolonial literary tradition strictly bound to Latin America; applying postcolonial, queer, and feminist theories, I illumine the interweavings of unofficial truths in literature to explore their vexed relationship to history, temporality, and materiality. Arms of America challenges the commonly held assumption that testimonio is "against literature," by shedding light on women's writings simultaneously engaged in transtemporal activism and art.

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