In the Mexican Catholic tradition, retablos are ornamental structures made of carved wood framing an oil painting of a devotional image, usually a patron saint. Acclaimed author and essayist Rigoberto Gonz‡lez commemorates the passion and the pain of these carvings in his new volume Red-Inked Retablos, a moving memoir of human experience and thought.
This frank new collection masterfully combines accounts from Gonz‡lez’s personal life with reflections on writers who have influenced him. The collection offers an in-depth meditation on the development of gay Chicano literature and the responsibilities of the Chicana/o writer.
Widely acclaimed for giving a voice to the Chicano GLBT community, Gonz‡lez’s writing spans a wide range of genres: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and bilingual books for children and young adults. Introduced by Women’s Studies professor Maythee Rojas, Retablos collects thirteen pieces that together provide a narrative of Gonz‡lez’s life from his childhood through his career as a writer, critic, and mentor.
In Red-Inked Retablos, Gonz‡lez continues to expand his oeuvre on mariposa (literally, “butterfly”) memory, a genre he pioneered in which Chicano/a writers openly address non-traditional sexuality. For Gonz‡lez, mariposa memory is important testimony not only about reconfiguring personal identity in relation to masculinity, culture, and religion. It’s also about highlighting values like education, shaping a sex-positive discourse, and exercising agency through a public voice. It’s about making the queer experience a Chicano experience and the Chicano experience a queer one.
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