Nepantla #3: BRB and Liminal Literature

Michael Palencia-Roth uses “nepantla” also to refer to the texts that arise from cross-cultural encounters and that as a result often employ a binary structure called an alterity.

“An alterity can remain static and oppositional (this is, in effect, identity politics). Or, it can become active and relational through the mediating presence and actions of the middle, the in-betweenness, in sum, nepantla. Nepantla is the space of the imagination, of interpretive thought, of mediation, of the experience of the new, of the language that reflects and alters consciousness. Nepantla is the site of metaphor and translation, of processes that may seek to perpetuate and codify difference, and of those that try to transform difference into a version of the same or to create a new reality.”

This translation, this transformation of difference, is a keystone in most titles published by Broken River Books (and in many of the most powerful titles from other indie publishers). Think of the tension between baseball and Mexican-American culture in Scores, the liminal world lived in by the undocumented protagonist of Zero Saints, the ever-shifting interplay of past-present and real-imagined in The Last Projector, the limbo between sea and shore in The Incoming Tide, the harrowing collision of bleakly mundane and cosmically terrible in Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again.

I could go on with every single book, but you can clearly see J David Osborne’s penchant for and curating of liminal literature, work that thematically and stylistically reaches out from a nexus of conflicting world visions to shatter compositional norms and create something at the very least unique.

Hell, I see a thesis lurking in the BRB catalog for some future graduate student. Nepantleros Writing on the Indie Threshold.

A Mexican-American author and translator from deep South Texas, David Bowles teaches literature and Nahuatl at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley.

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