Norma Mendoza-Denton’s Homegirls: Language and Cultural Practice among. Latina Youth Gangs is the first major ethnographic work on the Norteña/Sureña. Norma Mendoza-Denton, Homegirls: Language and cultural practice among. Latina youth gangs. Maiden, MA: Blackwell, Pp. vii, Pb $ In this ground-breaking new book on the Nortena and Surena (North/South) youth gang dynamic, cultural anthropologist and linguist Norma Mendoza- Denton.
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Homegirls: Language and Cultural Practice Among Latina Youth Gangs by Norma Mendoza-Denton
It is evident from the introduction that Homegirls is an extraordinary book. Norma Mendoza-Denton opens her linguistic ethnography of young female gang members in California with a series of letters to the various audiences which she hopes to address, ranging from professional linguists to hojegirls students and general readers.
The epistolary form establishes a paradox that serves the book well: Mendoza-Denton is ambitious enough to hope that her work might change the way a wide range of readers think, and at the same time harbors no illusions that any intellectual project can capture the rich complexity of human language and culture, even within a very specific field of [End Page ] focus.
Indeed, the core argument of the book is that the group it represents carries on a densely layered cultural life that is misunderstood in stereotype and too much social science as merely a symptom of social pathology and acultural deviance. In asserting the argument, Mendoza-Denton has almost written two books.
The first is an evocatively narrated, reflexive, and critical ethnography of the everyday cultural practices and discourse of the homegirls.
This emerges in the early, more interpretive chapters, which will be of wide, general interest menoza-denton the urgent relevance of the cultural critique they present.
Elsewhere, she describes how members use the identity markers of language to navigate “Norte” and “Sur” north and south gang networks, displaying or concealing various fluencies for specific rhetorical purposes.
This account of multilingual mastery among high school students complicates the highly political issue of what it means to speak Spanish or English in the United States.
The motivation to unpack these rich instances of social communication lies in Mendoza-Denton’s ethnographic commitment to take the points of view of her subjects seriously; her linguistic approach enables her to do so in outstanding detail. The second part of the book establishes the credibility of her arguments as linguistic science by shifting from the contextual and more generally cultural questions of the first part to a much more specifically linguistic and quantitative study.
It is here that some of the anticipated broad audience, even those with access to an International Phonetic Alphabet cheat-sheet, may begin to find the prose growing drier.
REVIEW of Norma Mendoza-Denton’s book Homegirls | Hilary Parsons Dick –
The critical voice that resonates homegirl the interpretive chapters stands down in favor of more scientific aims: Thus humanist readers may begin to lose interest just as the linguists sigh “Finally! Homegirls should rock the very foundations of criminological understandings of gangs, especially concerning female gang members. If scientific rigor increases the book’s impact, no one should begrudge Mendoza-Denton the specialization of the latter chapters.
In any case, this is a book about much more homeigrls language—or perhaps it reveals language to be much more than we think—and it is well worth picking up for an enlightening glimpse of a population that has been ascribed infamy without being known much at all.
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