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To write about place you must experience place. In Walk the Barrio, Cristina Rodriguez enacts this premise by walking neighborhood streets, talking to immigrants, interviewing authors, and placing herself physically in the spaces that she seeks to understand.
The word barrio is a commonplace not only of American speech but of our literary imagination. Indeed, what draws Rodriguez to the barrios of Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and others is the work of literature inspired by those neighborhoods. Walk the Barrio explores the ways in which authors William Archila, Richard Blanco, Angie Cruz, Junot Díaz, Salvador Plascencia, Héctor Tobar, and Helena María Viramontes use their U.S. hometowns as both setting and stylistic inspiration.
Asking how these writers innovate upon or break the rules of genre to render in words an embodied experience of the barrio, Rodriguez considers, for example, how the spatial map of New Brunswick impacts the mobility of D az's female characters, or how graffiti influences the aesthetics of Viramontes's novels. By mapping each text's fictional setting upon the actual spaces it references in what she calls "barriographies," Rodriguez reveals connections between place, narrative form, and migrancy. This first-person, interdisciplinary approach presents an innovative model for literary studies and sheds important light on the ways in which transnationalism transforms the culture of each Latinx barrio.