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Southwestern American Literature

Southwestern American Literature is a biannual scholarly journal that includes literary criticism, fiction, poetry, and book reviews concerning the Greater Southwest.

Since its inception in 1971, the journal has published premier works by and about some of the most significant writers of the region.

Southwestern American Literature is indexed in The MLA International Bibliography, which can be found in most North American and European higher-education institutions, and Humanities International Complete, which can be found in libraries throughout North America.

ISSN 0049-1675facebook

© Center for the Study of the Southwest, Texas State University.

Current Issue: Volume 43 | Number 2 - Spring 2018

On December 6, 2018 Jakelin Caal Maquin entered the custody of the Border patrol in southern New Mexico. Eight hours later medical authorities declared Jakelin Caal Maquin dead.  On May 9, 2018 Roxana Hernandez submitted her case for asylum based on the situation trans women face in Honduras and entered ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention. On May 31, 2018, medical authorities reported that Roxana Hernandez was found dead.

On July 12, 2015, Sandra Bland entered the custody of the Waller County jail system after getting arrested during a traffic stop in Prairie View.  On July 13, 2015, medical authorities in Hempstead reported that Sandra Bland was found dead of asphyxiation in her cell.

The public record of these three deaths speaks to the indifference and hostility immigrant women and women of color face in the Southwest.  The subsequent investigations into these deaths tell us more about the level of responsibility and the degree of impunity institutions face in these situations. What the investigations – generated by public outcry and protest – may be able to reveal are the stories that make this violence possible; the outlines of these lives in the stories of their surviving kin and family are placed outside the borders of the investigations. But the outlines exist and have meaning.


SAL Spring 2018

There is a temptation to match these three with a earlier story of detention in the Southwest, perhaps the “enslaved Plains Indian woman,” who escaped her captors among Coronado’s men as they made their way across the Llano Estacado; this escape lingers in historical memory because Luys Hernandez de Biedma, a member of the De Soto expedition, remembered her arrival and her story of capture in Coronado’s expeditions during his time west of the Mississippi river (Hernandez de Biedma, 1904, 22).  As Jane Hawley points out in this issue, “origin stories are tricky.  Another story waits behind the first, an infinite unfolding of beginnings.”  The raw materials are always fragmented and incomplete. It is in the telling, in “the way you arrange the story, that lies in your control.” We know she escaped. We know she resisted. Her captors found her escape and her resistance an important part of the story of their failed colonial entradas into the Southwest. This is also part of our stories.

Why begin with these four stories? For many, their names resonate with narratives we hear daily. For others, their lives are made meaningful through stories, the narratives have to mesh with ours to make them meaningful to the triumphs and tragedies of our own. Communicating our pain and the pain of others, essayist Elaine Scarry argued in The Body in Pain: the Making and Unmaking of the World, is what makes us human and is one of the more difficult tasks we undertake on a regular basis.  Sharing difficult truths is what the pieces in this Southwestern American Literature have in common.

This issue is preoccupied with the ways stories and lives make their way past borders, political and otherwise. The authors are concerned with the weight of untold and unheard stories, with the way stories lay their burdens on present and future generations. They are concerned with finding ways with telling difficult stories with dignity, pushing for ways to appreciate and value the work women and others have made their lives possible and meaningful. The authors are interested in making meaning from fragments, finding ways to shift the burdens placed on them by mothers, fathers and traditions; finding ways to make some traditions more relevant and resonant than others. The pieces collected here ask us to listen again, to not look away, to revisit what we feel we may know about the Southwest.