The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Gilbert Lecture features author Norma Cantu

The SMU Department of English hosted its first lecture of the Gilbert Lecture Series, held in the Stanley Marcus Reading Room of the DeGoyler Library, on Thurday.

The guest of honor, Norma Cantu, spoke on “Living and Writing on the Border: A Chicana Autobioethnography.”

Cantu was raised in Laredo, Texas and was what is known as a “border child”- one who crosses to and from Mexico as part of his or her everyday life. Now a “border writer,” Cantu writes about the Latino/Chicano lifestyle, border communities and feminism.

She lists her grandmother and mother as her literary influences.

Cantu also travels frequently to give speeches and spoke at Whittier College in California just last week.

Despite a busy schedule lecturing at colleges and cultural centers, Cantu serves as a professor of English at the University of Texas San Antonio. “I try not to miss classes,” she said, at the same time explaining she loves to meet students from all over the country.

This semester, Cantu is teaching a graduate seminar on U.S.-Latino literature and a multi-ethnic literature course that focuses on coming-of-age stories. She has been teaching the same literature course, at different schools and with a variation of themes, for the last 25 years.

According to Cantu, all her classes take a “cultural studies approach” to material.

Her current book, one of the subjects of yesterday’s lecture, is “Canicula,” a word that means the “dog-days” of summer but is also a “metaphor for an ‘in-between’àbetween childhood and adulthood, a time of becoming and of negotiating dual identities.”

The book is a collection of short stories, each focusing around a different photograph of Cantu’s family and ancestors.

“Canicula” is set in the 1950s and 60s and “underscores the familial, cultural and political world of the border between Mexico and the United States,” according to a release on SMU’s website.

Cantu began writing at age 9, when she would “make up all kinds of scenarios” in her journal. As a young girl, she entered a TV contest for short stories and lost. “From that I learned rejection,” said Cantu, “an important lesson for any writer.”

Her first published work was through her college newspaper, where she was a journalist. Her brief stint in journalism was a good experience, said Cantu. “It teaches deadlines, which creative writers aren’t good at.”

Cantu has just finished her latest book, “Champú, or Hair Matters,” a collection of short stories combined into one narrative, much like “Canicula.” She continues to write, edit and publish fiction, poetry and anthropological studies of folk traditions, all relating to the Latino/Chicano culture.

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