Received: February 26, 2018
Acceptance: July 23, 2018
Anita Brenner. Una escritora judía con México en el corazón
Marcela López Arellano, 2017 UAA, Mexico, 430 pp.
TOnita Brenner. A Jewish writer with Mexico in her heart focuses on the writings of Anita Brenner (1905-1974), daughter of Jewish immigrants from Latvia who worked in Aguascalientes. It is a refined and innovative study in the historiographies of written culture, autobiography, biography, universities, Jewish migration, women's history, and gender in revolutionary and post-revolutionary Mexico. Based on the very careful consultation of different archives in Mexico and the United States, López Arellano presents critical, theoretical and methodological proposals that will undoubtedly mark the aforementioned historiographies. Marcela López Arellano analyzes Anita Brenner from the categories of written culture and gender. These perspectives allow the author to go beyond the various studies that had been published on Brenner (Susannah Glusker, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2011; Alicia Azuela, Carlos Monsiváis, Ana Indych, Nadia Ugalde, Carol Miller; Ricardo Pérez Montfort, 2007/2008; Masha Salazkina, 2009; Rick A. López, 2010; Yolanda Padilla Rangel, 2010), and that they had focused on certain stages of their life and work. Anita Brenner. Una escritora judía con México en el corazón It is the first work that focuses on the different writing genres that Brenner used throughout his life: autobiographies, personal diaries, letters, newspaper articles, doctoral thesis and articles for magazines, among others.
López Arellano performs the conceptual analysis of each of its sources, which reveals a deep knowledge of them and allows to know the self-perception processes of Anita Brenner, as well as the themes and problems that motivated her writing from local, national and transnational. López Arellano weaves together different historiographies (written culture, Jewish migration, universities, history of gender and women and the press) and contexts, focusing on the various folds of Anita Brenner's “I”.
Anita Brenner. Una escritora judía con México en el corazón It is a balanced analysis of Anita's "me" and how it was her process of gender, ethnicity and class identity to look and feel like a Mexican Jewish woman. The author breaks down this intersectionality in the different life cycles of Anita Brenner through her writing. Although the author focuses on writing and its subjectivity at various times in her life, Anita's writings bring us into context; to their networks, like the B'nai B'rith in Mexico; to cultural, political, economic activities; to reading and writing practices in Mexico.
López Arellano maintains that Brenner's journalistic reports contribute to the knowledge of Jewish immigration to Mexico, immigration laws and the port of Veracruz, as well as the conceptions of gender from eugenics and the immigration regulations of the time. They also show the interest of American Jewish newspapers and magazines in the situation of immigrants arriving in Mexico, as well as the contexts and history of Jewish publications in that country.
The author argues that by examining the newspapers and the representation of Anita Brenner as a “modern girl”, one can discover the various spaces that independent young women like her could access during the 1920s both in Mexico and in the United States: universities, newspapers and magazines, the intellectual and artistic world of both countries, professional and feminist women in Mexico and Columbia university students in New York.
It is a work that contributes to the history of women and gender not only in Mexico, but also in the United States and Europe, because it shows the contacts and friendships, as in the case of Tina Modotti, and interviews she did with some of the teachers , feminists and fighters for women's rights such as Elvia Carrillo Puerto, Elena Torres, Concha Michel and the lawyer María Sandoval de Zarco –as recorded in her personal diaries–, and she gave her writing to Ernest Gruening, who included it in his book Mexico and Its Heritage (1928), in a chapter entitled "Women". There are also relationships between women and men, such as Anita with Ernest Gruening, Carleton Beals, Frank Tannenbaum, Jean Charlot, Franz Boas, Manuel Gamio, just to mention a few cases.
Another important contribution from Anita Brenner. Una escritora judía con México en el corazón is the reconstruction of her doctoral studies in Anthropology at Columbia University as a student of Franz Boas, considered the "father of anthropology in the United States" and promoter of anthropological historicism. Boas was his mentor and thesis supervisor. She was also a student of the cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict and shared some spaces with Margaret Mead, known for her studies on the non-literate peoples of Oceania, especially with regard to the cultural conditioning of sexual behavior, natural character and cultural change. In addition, in New York Anita began her collaboration, which would last for several decades, in publications such as The Nation and The New York Times, and published his books Idols Behind Altars (1929), Your Mexican Holiday (1932) and The Wind That Swept Mexico (1943), always with Mexico as the axis of his writing.
The four chapters of the book present contributions to the history of Mexico linked from the written culture of Anita Brenner, such as her experience as a family of foreigners in Aguascalientes, her perception of the Mexican Revolution as a child, the interest of American publishers in what was happening. in Mexico, the development of anthropology, the different moments of his life in autobiographical narratives and their impact on his personal perception of his context.
López Arellano shows erudition and deep handling of the analyzed material. His book is written in clear but scholarly prose. The previous version of this work was the author's doctoral thesis, “Anita Brenner's Narrative Analysis (1905-1974). Written culture, identity and gender ”, defended in December 2013 at the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes and distinguished with the Rabbi Jacobo Goldberg Prize 2015 by the Ashkenazi Community of Mexico.
Anita Brenner. Una escritora judía con México en el corazón it impacts several fields: written culture, autobiographical discourse, the history of the press and universities, the history of anthropology, women and gender, migration and Jews, and transnational history. López Arellano's book brilliantly fulfills what her project set out to do, which is to illuminate studies on written culture and gender from new perspectives.