BOOK REVIEW SURVIVING BEYOND FEAR: WOMEN, CHILDREN AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN LATIN AMERICA
Marjorie Agosín (editor). White Pine Press, 1993, 217 pp., $14.00 (paper).
This anthology focuses on two groups who are often invisible victims of human rights violations: women and children. The collection is ambitious in scope–including testimonial accounts of human rights violations as well as heavily footnoted academic articles–but uneven in quality. The majority of the essays in the first section trace the growing political awareness of women who left the isolation of home life to protest the disappearance of husbands and children. Ximena Bunster contributes an outstanding article on the torture of women. With candor and insight, she argues that the torture methods applied to women are purposely chosen to defile the traditional notions of womanhood that Latin American society holds sacred. The section on children–written primarily by health care professionals–is considerably weaker. The authors tend to speak in sociological jargon, and their conclusions about the effects of trauma on young children feel tired and uncreative.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS: WOMEN, RESISTANCE AND POLITICS IN SOUTH AMERICA
Jo Fisher, Latin America Bureau (distributed by Monthly Review Press), 1993, 228 pp., $15.00 (paper).
Out of the Shadows is a thoughtful, fluently written account of working-class women's popular resistance to military dictatorships in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Fisher shows how women who first organized to defend their traditional interests as wives and mothers came to rethink their roles as women in i>machista Latin American society. She combines incisive analysis with compelling first-person accounts of women working in unions, communal kitchens, human rights groups, and peasant organizations.
TRANSLATED WOMAN: CROSSING THE BORDER WITH ESPERANZA'S STORY
By Ruth Behar, Beacon Press, 1993, 374 pp.,$25.00 (Cloth).
Beacon Press, 1993, 374 pp., $25.00 (cloth). By NACLA How does a gringa writer del otro lado presume to tell the story of an illiterate Mexican street vendor? How can a white, bourgeois Westerner span the chasms of race, class and nationality, and write such a life story in a way that is faithful to the teller and yet accessible to a North American audience? These are some of the questions that Ruth Behar persistently asks herself in this engrossing narrative of the life of Esperanza, a 60-year-old Indian woman from Mexquitic. Behar starts off with a straight-forward, transcript-like account of Esperanza's youth, troubled marriage, and tumultuous relations with her children. Later on, however, the book becomes more dialectic in tone, reflecting the back-and-forth conversation between the two women. The most absorbing part of all is Behar's concluding rumination about what it means to take Esperanza's story back with her across the border.
ORGANIZING FOR OUR LIVES: NEW VOICES FROM RURAL COMMUNITIES
By Richard Steven Street, Newsage Press and California Rural Legal Assistance, 1992, 120 pp., $24.00 (paper).
NewSage Press and California Rural Legal Assistance, 1992, 120 pp., $24.95 (paper). By NACLA This compilation of photographs and oral testimony from rural communities in California looks at the changes brought by the influx of immigrants and refugees from Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia. An eloquent and sometimes visually arresting communal diary, it meanders through the myriad problems of a displaced, poverty-stricken and "forgotten" people, and also gives expression to their methods of empowerment. This book should be of particular interest to California natives, whose self-image so often conforms to entirely different kinds of stereotypes. Although powerful and sometimes disturbing, this is a light read, combining techniques of documentary, poetry, and auto-ethnography.
THE IRAN-CONTRA SCANDAL: THE DECLASSIFIED HISTORY
edited by Peter Kornbluh and Malcolm Byrne, The New Press, 1993, 412 pp., $40.00 (cloth), $24.95 (paper).
This is the National Security Archive's second "documents reader." Like its predecessor, The Cuban Missile Crisis, its centerpiece is a collection of declassified documents (in this case, 101 of them) obtained by the Archive under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents make clear that point-men North and Poindexter were not running a rogue operation, but were carrying out policy made at the highest levels. The visually compelling presence of so many photocopied documents, and the book's large format make it a kind of coffee-table item. Were it not for the accompanying narrative by editors Peter Kornbluh and Malcolm Byrne, the book might remain an attractive artifact, to be consulted when one had a hankering to see Ollie North's signature. But the narrative lifts it above coffee-table status, offering a lucid recounting and a credible analysis of both the U.S.-generated Contra war in Nicaragua, and the arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. This "reader" is an important contribution to our understanding of one of the more corrupt and reactionary episodes of recent U.S. history.