07 August 2010
Not regarding oneself as "inferior"
In her article "Gustavo Pérez Firmat’s ‘Bilingual Blues’ and ‘Turning the Times Tables’: Language Choice and Cultural Identity in Cuban-American Literature" (2007) Annabel Cox writes: “When bilingual literature is produced by Cubano-American writers, in common with other Latino bilingual production, it calls into question US-anglophone assumptions concerning superior and inferior cultures clearly indicated in attitudes towards non-English languages in the United States.” Although it cannot be denied that there is prejudice among mainstream American critics against American literature written in languages other than English, I often wonder if Ngugi wa thiongo's admonition that we must first decolonize our minds does not come into play here. I have forced myself, for example, to think of Philippine literature first before I think of American literature. I judge Ernest Hemingway's art on the basis of norms derived from the art of Bienvenido Santos and Nick Joaquin, rather than the other way around. Perhaps Cubano-American writers can think of their mixed-language literature as the "mainstream" and monolingual American texts as aberrations. The liberation of the mind through this simple but difficult technique is something only a creative writer can truly appreciate.