The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Latino Literature
THE GREENWOOD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LATINO LITERATURE
Edited by Nicolás Kanellos
Braschi, Giannina (1953–).
Giannina Braschi is a Puerto Rican experimental author who champions the use of code-switching in literature, the frequent move from one language to another (in this case from English to Spanish and vice versa). Her book Empire of Dreams (1994) is her most representative work. Braschi was born to a well-to-do family in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on February 5, 1953. She traveled throughout Europe, moving to New York City when she was twenty-two years old. At the age of twenty-seven, she earned a Ph.D. from the State University of New York and by the time she was thirty, she was gathering scholarly and literary laurels: a grant from Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana (Institute for Ibero-American Cooperation) in Madrid (1980), the publication of her first book of poetry, Asalto al tiempo (1981, Assault on Time), and of a book of criticism, La poesía de Bécquer (1982, The Poetry of Bécquer), and an appointment as minority faculty at Rutgers University (1983). After two more books—La comedia profana (1985, The Profane Comedy) and Libro de payasos y bufones (1987, Book of Clowns and Buffoons)— she published her best-known work, El imperio de los sueños (Empire of Dreams), consisting of poems and a short novel, in 1988. A book about New York City and the lives of immigrants who live there, the three-part volume examines the intricacies of the English language, the vitality of street life in Manhattan, and newcomers’ attempts to become part of the city—even to possess it. The book, which proved popular in Spain and in Latin America, was translated into English in 1994 as Empire of Dreams.
In 1998, Braschi published Yo-Yo-Boing!. Once again, the novel consisted of three parts: “Close-Up,” about woman evaluating her emotional and intellectual capabilities, “Blow-Up,” a Spanish–English conversation about life, and “Black-Out,” where the author includes herself in the narrative. According to comments reviewer Carolyn Kuebler, in The Review of Contemporary Fiction (1995), “Braschi writes with a strong poetic tradition behind her, and from her erudite standpoint she forges an odd mixture of poetry, prose, drama, and a little of what could be considered music. She imbues her text with jollity . . . She uses words for their rhythms and image-making, rather than to tell a story or to describe a fixed object or idea” (168).
Braschi’s writings have been translated into several languages, including French, Russian, and Serbian. She is currently working on a series of essays on the effects of the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001, on New Yorkers, especially those who, like her, had lived near the World Trade Center, in lower Manhattan, and experienced misplacement.
Kuebler, Carolyn, “Empire of Dreams” The Review of Contemporary Fiction Vol. 15, No. 1 (Spring 1995): 168–170.
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