On the 25th Anniversary of one of the most influential texts that I've stumbled across, as a woman, as a feminist, as the mother of a mestizo child, as a full-throated occupier of la frontera/the frontier, the borderlands, the wild space of hybridity where I become myself more deeply and through more cultural spaces, in resistance to imperialism and in celebration of a free world, it is in this moment when Gloria Anzaldua's landmark text Borderlands/La Frontera is imperiled.
This is unthinkable!
First, a little background and explanation about this book. Then I will briefly touch on Gloria Anzaldua herself. Finally, I will share a few personal thoughts about the incredible relevance of her work, especially during a time of such high political stakes.
Aunt Lute Nonprofit Press, who publish Gloria Anzaldua, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde is a 501C nonprofit small press, and they dearly need your help to reissue this work which transcends categorization, blending poetry, politics, and self-identity.
Their goal is to raise $10,000 to ensure that it's republished.
To help, please click HERE and donate in any amount, even $1.
And please pass this along to others whom you feel might be interested in preserving this exceptionally potent cultural artifact which serves as a true microcosm for our time.
In a moment when women, the LGBT community, and people of color are under political compression and still struggling for full acknowledgement, when independent book publishers struggle due to Big Box stores and mega-corporations proliferating like weeds, and when disturbingly little value is seen in the Humanities or in Universities due to the corporatist, anti-human turn in education, WE MUST BE ACTIVE in ensuring that these politically contested spaces, spaces which we have spent decades fighting for, do not go ignored!
Borderlands/La Frontera has been deemed 1 of the 100 most important (Feminist) books of the Century.
From the University of Minnesota's Voices from the Gaps:
Gloria Anzaldua, a self-described "chicana dyke-feminist, tejana patlache poet, writer, and cultural theorist," was born to sharecropper/field-worker parents on September 26th, 1942 in South Texas Rio Grande Valley...I couldn't agree more. All readers benefit deeply from this fantastic inquiry into their very being. I have personally seen this time and again, that readers who participate in Anzaldua's journey find themselves richer, clearer, and more beautifully complicated by themselves and their departures from the tidiness of a mythologically "same" America which exists only for the most privileged few. This is a voyage I undertake yearly with others for this reason, simply bringing them to this text to experience the way it queers their self-understanding.
...In 1969, Anzaldua received her B.A. in English, Art, and Secondary Education from Pan American University. She then earned an M.A. in English and Education from the University of Texas. As a teacher, Anzalda instructed a wide variety of students. She first taught in a bilingual preschool program, then in a Special Education program for mentally and emotionally handicapped students. Later, she worked to educate college students about feminism, Chicano studies, and creative writing at a number of universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, Vermont College of Norwich University, and San Francisco State University. Anzaldua died of diabetes complications on May 15, 2004...
...During her lifetime, Anzaldua won numerous awards for her work, such as the Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award for Haciendo Cara, an NEA Fiction Award, the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award for This Bridge Called My Back, and the Sappho Award of Distinction. In addition, her text Borderlands/La Frontera was selected by the Literary Journal as one of the 38 Best Books of 1987...
Borderlands/La Frontera examines the condition of women in Chicano and Latino culture, Chicanos in white American society, and lesbians in the straight world. Through a combination of history and personal narrative, Anzaldua allows the reader both a close-up and distanced view into a life of alienation and isolation as a prisoner in the borderlands between cultures...
...Through the use of beautifully poetic wording, Anzaldua effectively takes the reader into her world of estrangement from every culture she could possibly "belong" to. Borderlands/La Frontera is a reality check to all readers, of every race, on cultural barriers and introspection to find one's true identity. Most of all, Anzaldua insists that while these borders are abstract, they should never be implemented into the soul.
Thus every year, I join teachers in introducing students to the centrifuge of where language, meaning, culture, and identity are formed indivisibly from one another through Anzaldua's groundbreaking essay, "How to Tame a Wild Tongue." In teaching students about their own wild tongues, I hope to convince them to never, in fact, tame their own voices or identities but instead to celebrate their complexities, to learn about using the rhetorical force of speaking from the margins. Together, we realize that we are unable to be homogenized by some totalizing ideal of "One America" reverberating through one tin note, one thin voice. Yes, you know that song all too well, the sound of a wealthy, white-only, male-only, flat, conservative, hetero-normative, bounded, and ultimately ungenerous Nation which has tried to maintain a stranglehold over its populace by subjugating our hearts, our minds, and our liberty.
We've had our wings clipped too many times.
We've been told by those in power to never venture outside of their sanctioned spaces.
We've been lied to about what a "normal" and "acceptable" identity is, and we've been disempowered by accepting those limits.
Our voices have been silenced time and again.
Anzaldua speaks to every single person who has ever found themselves outside of the state-sanctioned vision of America as a patriarchal, repressed, suppressed, enchained, straight, and delimited space, a place where your identity itself is in contest and where you are told your place, where you can go and where you cannot go without repercussion. Outside of this America is the danger of the wilderness, the borderlands, the bush, Ellis Island, the space between ordinary suburban homes in Florida where Trayvon Martin walked to buy Skittles and Ice Tea and paid for it with his life.
But perhaps just as importantly, Anzaldua speaks to every single person within that world as well. For my students are not a group of radical Chicana lesbians by any means, and they are not reading "what they already know." They are reading the unfamiliar and the jarring, for my students are by and large whiter, wealthier, oftentimes male, and not infrequently somewhat conservative. Others are simply searching for a toehold in the world and are not yet sure of how to define themselves. We are a representative group of what America looks like in many privileged places. When we read this together, when we experience Anzaldua's poetry, poesy, essays, struggle, and human articulation, we feel it together becoming "new creatures" (to quote the Village Voice). It is one of the single most powerful works we can tackle. I watch the students flourish with an expansiveness and new understanding about how we construct not only ourselves but also one another, with more or less tolerance, with differing degrees of cultural homogenization or enrichment and multiplicity. My students come to understand that to "tame" any wild tongue is nothing less than to staunch Democracy itself and often to do so unconsciously.
We need to preserve the wildness of all of our tongues if we wish to resist that which continues to try to crush us. Please participate with anything you can afford. Time is always running, always running away.
Please donate just a little bit BY CLICKING HERE
To live in the borderlands means to:Disclaimer: I have absolutely no affiliation with any of the things or people mentioned here and am posting solely because this is something I think is deeply important and deserves everyone's time, energy, and a small donation. Everything I say, I say out of love.
put chile in the borscht,
eat whole wheat tortillas,
speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;
be stopped by la migra at the border checkpoints.
Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to:
resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,
the pull of the gun barrel,
the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;
In the Borderlands:
you are the battleground
where enemies are kin to each other;
you are at home, a stranger...