The notion that exoticization may be the key element fueling the interest in Latino writers worries some observers. Lillian Castillo-Speed, head librarian of UC Berkeley's ethnic studies libraries and editor of the anthology "Latina" (Simon & Schuster, 1995), wonders if it's not just a passing publishing trend.
"I think the attention gets turned into the equivalent of a sound bite," Castillo-Speed says. "I just don't know if it's going to stick."
Alvarez's response to the subject is quick:
"I think that's the danger. America is a consumer culture and it will consume its latest ethnicity: literature and music and food. Then make a chain store out of it. And soon it'll go on to the next one. You know, disposable culture."
She predicts that the current trend in Latino publishing will not persist.
"The doors will close on people who are the wrong color, come from the wrong place. Those battles will still have to be fought."
Yet she sees a long-term role for herself and a place for Latino literature.
"I feel a responsibility to keep the door open. And I have to believe that the best stuff will stay and will add to what it is to be an American and to be a human being."