Aurora Levins Morales (b. 1954)
Contributing Editor: Frances R. Aparicio
Classroom Issues and Strategies
Since Levins Morales's major book is authored in collaboration with her mother, Rosario Morales, it would be appropriate to present her work in this context. Instructors could familiarize themselves with Getting Home Alive and make a selection of texts in which the dialogue--as well as the differences--between mother and daughter is exemplified.
Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues
Major themes in Aurora Levins Morales's work: identity as a female minority in the U.S.; feminism; multiple identity (Puerto Rican, Jewish, North American), also inherited versus self-defined identities; concept of immigrant; Jewish culture and traditions; mother/daughter relationships; importance of language, reading, words, and writing; remembering and memory as a vehicle to surpass sense of fragmentation and exile/displacement; images of spaces and cities; "internationalist" politics.
Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions
Heterogeneous forms and texts constitute Levins Morales's writings. Getting Home Alive is a collage of poems, short stories, lyrical prose pieces, essays, and dialogues. Note the importance of eclectic style: She is lyrical, subdued at times, sensorial, and quite visual in her imagery. She does not belong to any major literary movement; her writings cannot be easily categorized into one style or another, though they definitely respond to the preoccupations of other U.S. women of color.
Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections
Fruitful comparisons can be drawn to the works of other women of color, such as Cherríe Moraga, Loving in the War Years in Cuentos: Stories by Latinas, eds. Gómez, Moraga, Romo-Carmona (New York: Kitchen Table Press, 1983). Levins Morales has been particularly influenced by Alice Walker. In addition, I believe comparisons and contrasts with mainstream U.S. feminist writers would also prove valuable.
Questions for Reading and Discussion/ Approaches to Writing
1. Study questions would deal with textual analysis and with clarifying references to Spanish words, places in Puerto Rico or El Barrio, and other allusions that might not be clear to students.
2. (a) Have students do their own version of "Child of the Americas" in order to look into their own inheritance and cross-cultural identities.
(b) Paper topics might include the importance of multiple identity and "internationalist" politics; comparison and contrast of mother's and daughter's experiences, points of view, language, and style; meaning of language, reading, and writing for Levins Morales; an analysis of images of space, borders, urban centers, mobility, exile, displacement; contrast to Nuyorican writers from El Barrio: How would Levins Morales diverge from this movement, and why should she still be considered as representative of Puerto Rican writers in the United States?
Benmayor, Rina. "Crossing Borders: The Politics of Multiple Identity." Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños Bulletin 2:3 (Spring, 1988): 71-77.
Rojas, Lourdes. "Latinas at the Crossroads: An Affirmation of Life in Rosario Morales and Aurora Levins Morales's Getting Home Alive." In Breaking Boundaries: Latina Writing and Critical Reading, edited by A. Horno-Delgado, E. Ortega, N. Scott, and N. Saporta-Sternbach. 166-77. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989.