Cover of Homeless Tongues by Monique R. Balbuena
Homeless Tongues
Poetry and Languages of the Sephardic Diaspora
Monique R. Balbuena


July 2016
256 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9780804760119

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Finalist for the 2016 National Jewish Book Awards in the category of Sephardic Culture, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council.

This book examines a group of multicultural Jewish poets to address the issue of multilingualism within a context of minor languages and literatures, nationalism, and diaspora. It introduces three writers working in minor or threatened languages who challenge the usual consensus of Jewish literature: Algerian Sadia Lévy, Israeli Margalit Matitiahu, and Argentine Juan Gelman. Each of them—Lévy in French and Hebrew, Matitiahu in Hebrew and Ladino, and Gelman in Spanish and Ladino—expresses a hybrid or composite Sephardic identity through a strategic choice of competing languages and intertexts. Monique R. Balbuena's close literary readings of their works, which are mostly unknown in the United States, are strongly grounded in their social and historical context. Her focus on contemporary rather than classic Ladino poetry and her argument for the inclusion of Sephardic production in the canon of Jewish literature make Homeless Tongues a timely and unusual intervention.

About the author

Monique Rodrigues Balbuena is Associate Professor of Literature in the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.

"A splendid work that will be a fascinating read for all those who are interested in Jewish literatures and languages and in poetology."

—Lazar Fleishman, Stanford University.

"In this book, Monique Balbuena rescues three Sephardi poets from near oblivion. Significant on their own, together they challenge the usual canons of Jewish literature and the general consensus on Jewish languages, as well as the standard theories of minority literatures."

—Nancy E. Berg, Washington University