Although scholars generally agree that the Chicano literary movement gained its primary momentum around 1959 and was dominated nearly exclusively by male writers for decades, a number of Mexican Nationals, both men and women estranged from their motherland by the Mexican Revolution, had already been writing about their homeland and their separation from it well before 1959 from within the United States.
Born in the year that the Mexican Revolution began, Mexican-American writer Josefina Niggli dividedher childhood between Mexico and the United States, her family moving back and forth between two countries to avoid the dangers of insurrection and war. The author’s formative years were thus defined by the instability of national boundaries and cultural fragmentation, but Niggli eventually became an American citizen and lived in the United States during the last six decades of her life. In spite of this constructed national identity, Niggli continued to define herself as a Mexican and wrote and published about Mexico and Mexican customs in English with the intent to demystify her homeland for an American audience. A prolific author and screenwriter, Josefina Niggli primarily wrote poetry and narrative fiction in the mid-twentieth century. Her oeuvre stretched from the improbable sets of CBS’s “Have Gun, Will Travel” to her collection of short stories Mexican Village, which became a major motion picture for MGM entitled Sombrero in 1953, starring Ricardo Montalbán and Cyd Charisse. In the wake of the movement to translate her fictions into mainstream media, Niggli was forgotten as a literary figure, and the body of her works remains largely unstudied to date.
2010 will mark the centennial of Niggli’s birth, and in an effort to revive interest in her significant contributions to mid-century literature and film, we are soliciting submissions for an edited volume of essays on any subject related to her works, but especially those that discuss the following:
- national identity, hybridity, and biculturalism;
- empowerment of women characters;
- Niggli as a precursor to contemporary Mexican American and Chicano literature;
- Mexican costumbrismo written for a (mostly) white Anglo audience.