Last week I was reading an article on theNation.com about a new generation of writers from Mexico (Jorge Volpi, Ignacio Padilla & Eloy Urroz) in the mid nineties, and it hit very close to home. They called themselves the “crackeros” but what interested me the most was their resistance to writing “Mexican literature.” Literary critics from America and Western Europe insisted that Mexicans writers must write about Mexican themes in order to be authentic. In other words, the crakeros‘ novels weren’t about Mexico, and therefore, the writers weren’t authentic. That implies that the “universal” is restricted to the Americans and Europeans. Commence severe eye-rolling.
This false dichotomy between the universality of Western civilization (USA & Europe) versus the folkloric particularities of national literature also translates to the false dichotomy between identity politics and universality. As a deaf writer, I chose to write about universal themes, as opposed to particular themes about my political identity, my deafness, the community. However, this choice has drawn criticism from certain individuals that my writing wasn’t authentic, just because I refused to address the relevant themes about deafhood, and in turn, my submissions to projects like American Anthology of Deaf Writers were rejected. However, my writings about universal themes – pessimism, utopias, liberation – are no less authentic because my political identity as a deaf person does not define the authenticity of my writings.
The article claimed that the crackeros‘ rejection of a limited sense of authenticity wasn’t just a naked statement of fact, but a self-positioning stratagem. Volpi rejected the idea of a national literature as a 19th century anachronism, and disparaged the idea of a “Latin American literature.” We should follow suit and reject the idea of “deaf literature” as a 20th century anachronism as well, and be free to write about deafhood or universal themes without sacrificing our authenticity.