ALLA Book Awards

The Association of Latina and Latino Anthropologists (ALLA) invites submissions for the 2014 ALLA Book Award.  The award is for the best book in anthropology published from 2012 to 2014 on Latinas/os and their communities.  Ethnographic books in other disciplines may be considered.  The committee of readers will judge each entry on the basis of the originality of the research, the quality of the writing, and the importance of the topic for understanding the Latina/o experience in the United States, or in transnational communities linked to the U.S.

ALLA book awards will consist of:

First Prize $ 400
Honorable Mention $ 200

Winners receiving First Prize and Honorable Mention will be honored at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association during the ALLA business meeting, and a citation of their books will appear on the ALLA website.

Send four copies of each book and a cover letter listing the book title, the author’s name and affiliation (if any) to the following address by May 1, 2014.

CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies
ALLA Book Award
Lehman College
Carman Hall, Room 241
250 Bedford Park Blvd. West Bronx, NY 10468-1589

Please send questions or concerns to the Chair of the ALLA Book Award committee, Jim Taggart (

2012 Book Award Winners:

Alyshia Gálvez— Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers: Mexican Women Public Prenatal Care, and the Birth Weight Paradox. Rutgers University Press, 2011.

Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers: Mexican Women Public Prenatal Care, and the Birth Weight Paradox as a timely contribution for troubled times cannot be overstated. The book is rich in narrative and meticulously grounded in the current literature and scholarly understanding of the feminization of migration. Moreover, Gálvez’ book goes to the core of many of contemporary current cultural wars over reproductive rights and political debates about immigration. Students would do well to take note of it as an example of applied research on matters that concern our every-day society and politics. Galvez’s nuanced approach pierces the hardened surface of media punditry about migration to the United States and anxieties over “anchor babies,” for within it are insights about the realities of the immigrant women experiences: their daily negotiations through life’s challenges, family and work commitments, and transnational linkages. These are carried out amidst hope for identities that can propel their aspirations and dreams of dignity and fulfillment as mothers and as symbols of the anti-immigrant wrath sweeping the nation. She poignantly states that the efforts of women in the study quietly manage their pregnancies as well as child-rearing within conceptualizations of modern, migrant identities. They are eager to embrace the prestige of biomedicine, as symbol of modernity, contrasting to their struggles to survive in rural Mexico and its globalized economy. In this way, they occupy the often contentious transitional and transnational spaces of migration. This standpoint is later contrasted with the harsh realities of life in the United States that see them demonize as less valuable and flashpoint for the construction and reaffirmation of existing power hierarchies. It is a process by which the “reproductive futures” of some are valued, while those of racialized Others are disparaged, depicted as irrational and irresponsible, and despised.

For these reasons and many more, we are pleased to recognize the accomplishment, and award the 2012 ALLA Book Award to Alyshia Gálvez’ ethnography Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers: Mexican Women Public Prenatal Care, and the Birth Weight Paradox. Gálvez’ work goes right to heart of the immigrant experience by dismantling and providing a very different perspective on the “anchor baby” controversy. The birth-weight paradox, and immigrant paradox among Mexican immigrants in the U.S. have stumped many physicians and social scientists alike. Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers: Mexican Women Public Prenatal Care, and the Birth Weight Paradox asks important questions in regards to Latina health, and reproductive health care, by challenging the assumptions of modernity, and efficacy in the U.S. health care delivery system. Gálvez’ work among perinatal Mexican women in New York City has implications not only for researchers trying to understand this phenomenon, but also for the diasporic Mexican community navigating complex and often contradictory bi-cultural traditions and health care practices. Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers: Mexican Women Public Prenatal Care, and the Birth Weight Paradox is not only ethnographically vivid, but theoretically strong, contributing to the feminist and medical anthropological literature, particularly in the area of authoritative knowledge. Gálvez’ ethnography crosses academic disciplines by spanning applied and theoretical medical anthropology and Latino studies, among others.


Elaine A Peña’s Performing Piety: Making Space Sacred with the Virgin of Guadalupe (California, 2011) is a moving account of the predicament of Mexican immigrants displaced from their own country and living in the United States. Among the most memorable passages in this book is a description of the struggle of Guadalupanos in the Chicago area to create and maintain a shrine dedicated to the Virgen de Guadalupe in Rogers Park, a multi-ethnic urban area in Chicago’s Far North Side. It was here where, on July 3, 2001, a woman originally from Guanajuato, Mexico, “who may or may not be accounted for by the census data, stood on a street in Roger’s Park. Some neighborhood Guadalupanos believe she was waiting on the corner of Rogers and Honere behind Pace Bus Stop # 290 with her daughter, Guadalupe, when she heard her name called. Others reported she felt a tap on the shoulder, which had alerted her to the Virgencita’s presence. Another account suggests she merely felt compelled to look behind her toward the tree where she saw the Virgin of Guadalupe’s image ingrained.” (2011: 115) In her crisp and clear prose, Elaine Peña tells how the Guadalupanos tried to create ties to a locality far from home and family that had some semblance of the life they had left behind. Rogers Park is a public space, and the Guadalupanos ran into underlying prejudices and xenophobic attitudes that ultimately proved the undoing of their shrine near the tree where traces of the image of the Virgen of Guadalupe had appeared on an oval protruding from the tree’s bark, approximately six feet above the sidewalk. To place the meaning of shrines like this one in a broader perspective, Elaine Peña participated in two pilgrimages one from Querétaro and another from Zitácuaro, Michoacán, to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Tepeyac in Mexico City. Her aim was to discover the meaning the Virgen has for the Guadalupanas who make long journeys on foot in acts of devotion. Elaine Peña discovered that while Guadalupanas in both Mexico and the United States have very personal relationships with the Virgen and are willing to go to considerable lengths to perform acts of piety to show their devotion, she found among the Guadalupanos in the Chicago an especially inspiring story of displaced men and women who are determined to practice their faith and their culture no matter the odds. Elaine Peña has made an important contribution to our understanding of the predicament of Mexican immigrants by humanizing them and showing their resilient hope for a better life. I hope that her book will inspire serious and humane efforts at immigration reform in the United States.


2011 Book Award Winners:

Luz María Gordillo- Mexican Women and the Other Side of Immigration: Engendering Transnational Ties. University of Texas Press 2010.

We are pleased to recognize the accomplishment, and award this year’s ALLA Book Award to Luz Maria Gordillo’s ethnography Mexican Women and the Other Side of Immigration: Engendering Transnational Ties. Gordillo’s critical work contributes not only to transnational studies in Anthropology, but also to the less commonly explored Mexican immigrant experience in the Midwestern United States. Embedded with rich anthropological theory, Gordillo applies a feminist anthropological approach to transnational issues of community building and sustainability, labor, female autonomy, and family continuity. She intertwines her analysis with rich ethnographic vignettes, allowing participant agency to carry through her writing. Gordillo’s timely work addresses gendered subjectivities and the making of home transnationally, even as the interlocutors are under siege. Gordillo demonstrates the complexity of lealtades or loyalties immigrants feel towards their dual communities amidst social, legal, economical, and cultural constraints. Our choice to honor a Chicana historian reflects the trend of Latina/o anthropologists to work in non-traditional departments, combining interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological approaches in ethnic and gender studies.


Ruth Gomberg- Muñoz-Labor and Legality: An Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network. Oxford University Press 2010.

We are pleased to recognize the accomplishment, and award this year’s ALLA Book Award honorable mention to Ruth Gomberg-Munoz’s ethnography Labor and Legality: An Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network. This research highlights the various social networks Mexican migrants establish through their work and leisure activities in order to generate community and individual empowerment. Labor and Legality elegantly addresses important theoretical issues and debates in the Latino immigration literature such as identity, citizenship, race, and class all thread in an engaging ethnographic narrative. It was refreshing to hear from her research participants to such an intimate level. The ethnographic richness and fine-grained analysis will make this book an excellent pedagogical tool and contribute to educate the public at large on Latino immigration and policies at a time when this topic is at the center of national political debate.

Association of Latina and Latino Anthropologists