Elevate Difference

Side Dishes: Latina American Women, Sex, and Cultural Production

Side Dishes, at times more tasty, original, and irresistible than “the main dishes,” is a delightful, playful, and innovative work about Latina, Brazilian, and Spanish American women writers, filmmakers, cartoonists, and science fiction producers. Invaluable works by women in Side Dishes are found outside the usual diet of canonical texts by Latin American women. They broaden our knowledge and understanding of different ways and approaches of looking at cultural narratives of women. Beside “the main dishes” regularly serving narratives of women as victims of male aggression, “the side dishes” write, talk, or make films about sexual lust by women and about the treatment of women’s sexuality.

In fact, the first chapter of the book “Lust” discusses sexuality often classified as Pornography, dealing with bisexuality, lesbianism, and masturbation. Chapter two, “Pop,” is about science fiction writers and cartoonists, namely Marta Gómez, the comedian from the United States; Cecilia Rosetto from Argentina; and her compatriot, the cartoonist Maitena Burundarena together with science fiction writer Daina Chaviano from Cuba. Chapter three, “Issues,” explores the academic studies dealing with feminism though journals such as_ Debate Feminista_ from Mexico, Feminaria from Argentina, and Cadernos Pagu from Brazil.

Chapter four, “Flicks,” discusses the representation of women’s sexuality in film. Argentinean Lucrecia Martel’s La niña santa (The Holy Girl) is about a devoutly religious girl Amalia (María Alché) who constantly talks and thinks about sex. Mexican María Novaro’s Sin dejar huella (Without a Trace) explores metaphorical and physical borders in a story about Ana (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), a Mexican born, but Spanish raised dealer of fake Mayan archaeological relics. In it we also meet Aurelia (Tiaré Scanda), a young Mexican mother who makes her way to Cancún after stealing cash from her boyfriend. Tata Amaral’s film Antonia, a hit in Brazil, is about four young black women living in favelas (slums) outside Sao Paulo who had each experienced a tragedy and want to improve their living conditions. This film is about feminine friendship.

In chapter five, the author examines the development of women’s studies in Latin America and hopes that students will be encouraged to evaluate cultural texts in debates in and out of academia. In Fitch’s own words her goal with Side Dishes is “to put an array of cultural artefacts related to women in Latin America on the table.” She has done it beautifully. Through the culinary metaphors she has expanded on a sometimes forgotten area in feminist studies. With this fascinating work she signposts new directions for areas of Latin American feminism, cultural studies, and film studies, and makes a significant contribution to the main canon of Latin American narratives. This work is most likely to satisfy not only the tastes of academics but also any open minded reader interested in “the side dishes” of the diet.

Written by: Anna Hamling, October 30th 2009

I definitely have to read this book. Thanks for the great review!