Defending Their Own in the Cold: The Cultural Turns of U.S. Puerto Ricans explores U.S. Puerto Rican culture in past and recent contexts. The book presents East Coast, Midwest, and Chicago cultural production while exploring Puerto Rican musical, film, artistic, and literary performance. Working within the theoretical frame of cultural, postcolonial, and diasporic studies, Marc Zimmerman relates the experience of Puerto Ricans to that of Chicanos and Cuban Americans, showing how even supposedly mainstream U.S. Puerto Ricans participate in a performative culture that embodies elements of possible cultural "Ricanstruction."
Defending Their Own in the Cold examines various dimensions of U.S. Puerto Rican artistic life, including relations with other ethnic groups and resistance to colonialism and cultural assimilation. To illustrate how Puerto Ricans have survived and created new identities and relations out of their colonized and diasporic circumstances, Zimmerman looks at the cultural examples of Latino entertainment stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Benicio del Toro, visual artists Juan Sánchez, Ramón Flores, and Elizam Escobar, as well as Nuyorican dancer turned Midwest poet Carmen Pursifull. The book includes a comprehensive chapter on the development of U.S. Puerto Rican literature and a pioneering essay on Chicago Puerto Rican writing. A final essay considers Cuban cultural attitudes towards Puerto Ricans in a testimonial narrative by Miguel Barnet and reaches conclusions about the past and future of U.S. Puerto Rican culture. Zimmerman offers his own "semi-outsider" point of reference as a Jewish American Latin Americanist who grew up near New York City, matured in California, went on to work with and teach Latinos in the Midwest, and eventually married a woman from a Puerto Rican family with island and U.S. roots.