This book urges you to pay attention to how ideas travel across your cultural environment through images and media, through politics and journalism, through music and fashion, from graffiti written on freeway abutments to interactive Web sites.Finally, looking at books as border texts is a new way of looking at certain fundamental American issues, including what it means to be an American and what it means for the United States to survive as a nation of diverse peoples.The idea of borders in this book is much like the idea of borderlands described by contemporary American writer Gloria Anzaldúa1.
In this sense border texts are a lot like border places: that is, in this book we'll look at writing as places where something happens; places where people meet across their differences, places where differences are overcome in the attempt to create meaning.
There are always multiple levels of meaning in any text.
What "happens" where differences meet is fundamental to social relationships, acts of communication, and the expression of one's own identity.
In border texts and at "border crossings" both exciting and difficult things can happen.
Whether individual or cultural, our identities are constructed by borders: racial and ethnic borders, economic and class borders, borders of sexuality and gender, and borders that separate different levels of community, such as family and neighborhood.
Borders even define America's sense of itself as a nation and its place in the international community.Then look at the painting American Progress, by John Gast, which is Plate 13 in the Image Portfolioa painting that resembles a mural.)By saying this, she implies that "maps" work with one set of rules, codes, and symbols, and "murals" work with another.Maps have one purpose, and murals have another, just as maps are one medium and poems another.No matter who you are, throughout your life you will be negotiating these borders-making transactions across boundaries and maneuvering among differences.However, the thesis of Border Texts is that borders are not static dividing lines or barriers of difference but rather places where something happens. They always convey some kind of difference: differences in status, resources, power, ideas, values, hopes, history, language, or culture.And the medium through which these differences find expression-whether a poem, a photograph, an essay, a story, or a billboard-is what this book calls a "border text." Border texts express the stress, creativity, tension, energy, hope, and power that exist where differences meet.Although differences may often be the source of conflict, they are not necessarily negative.Rich is one of the best-known contemporary American poets (see her essay in Chapter 4).This excerpt is part of a long poem called An Atlas of the Difficult World.Such borders are both real and imaginary, physical and symbolic.A border can be something you can see, like the Rio Grande River that runs between the United States and Mexico, or something you can't see, like the hidden prejudices that might keep one kind of people out of a neighborhood or away from the higher paying jobs in a company.