The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader

“The world knows us by our faces, the most naked, most vulnerable, exposed, and significant topography of the body. When our caras do not live up to the “image” that the family or community wants us to wear and when we rebel against the engraving of our bodies, we experience ostracism, alienation, isolation, and shame.” Hacienda caras, una entrada

Anzaldúa tells the story of my life, my experiences, my thoughts. Although I’m not a Chicana like she was, so much of what she wrote could have applied to me, in fact to any woman who belongs to a marginalized or a minority group. Whether it was her lectures, her poetry, or interviews, her work was such a wealth of knowledge. She was a poet, an artist and more, and used poetic language from which she drew from Jungian psychology, and also intertwined her Spanish language.

I rarely come across theory in academia that is so interesting, refreshing and accessible.Anzaldúa puts herself into her work: her sensitivity, her empathy, her activism. She discusses the reading of this theory as a holistic experience which really resonated with me having read so much dry theory:

From: En Rapport, In Opposition Cobrando cuentas a las nuestras

“From where I stand, queridas carnalas-in a feminist position-I see, through critical lens with variable focus, that we must not drain our energy breaking down the male/white frame (the whole of western culture) but turn to our own kind and change our terms of reference. As long as we see the world and our experiences through white eyes -in a dominant/subordinate way-we’re trapped in the tar and pitch of the old manipulative and strive-for-power ways.”

Anzaldúa also discusses the problems with being the token woman of colour in academia or in similar space, how stressful it can be, and the ways in which those of us who find ourselves in that position can protect ourselves. It’s reminiscent of the Donna Kate Rushin poem ,The Bridge, which is included in the “This Bridge Called my Back” anthology.

From: Speaking in Tongues A Letter to Third World Women Writers

“We cannot allow ourselves to be tokenized. We must make our own writing and that of Third World women theorist priority…We are in danger of being reduced to purveyors of resource lists.”

Regarding feminism, Anzaldúa clearly shows how mainstream feminism is not enough for women of colour; she discusses how we have different issues and although we are not encouraged to write, we really should because through our writings we can create theories that will change policies, etc:

“Why am I compelled to write? Because the writing saves me from this complacency I fear. Because I have no choice. Because I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive. Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and hunger. I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you. To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispel the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit. To show that I can and that I will write, never mind their admonitions to the contrary. And I will write about the unmentionables, never mind the outraged gasp of the censor and the audience. Finally, I write because I’m scared of writing but I’m more scared of not writing. Why should I try to justify why I write?”

I liked how Anzaldúa injects so much of herself in her writing. She shows that her identity, which is complex, and her upbringing, are all part of who she is, and how she sees the world. She discussed her own personality and was very honest and transparent about several things:

“Being a mestiza queer person, una de las otras (“of the others”) is having and living in a lot of worlds, some of which overlap. One is immersed in all the worlds at the same time while also traversing from one to the other.”

In: Spirituality, Sexuality, and the Body: An Interview with Linda Smuckler

“At this time in my life, I need a lot of solitude. I live in my imagination, in my inner world. There has to be a balance: I need a community of people, I need to go out into the world, I need that connection. So it’s either extreme. When I find myself being too much out in the world I have to put shields around myself so that I can come home, recuperate, recharge, and reconnect. But if I’m in my little womb of a house (for me, the house is always a symbol of the self), if I’m too protective, too much of a hermit, I have to take those shields off and let people in.”

I am so glad I have a copy of this as I feel the knowledge I learned and the knowledge that was reaffirmed, will last with me for a long time.

A long quote, one of my favourites and the basis of my thesis, coming up:

“What is considered theory in the dominant academic community is not necessarily what counts as theory for women-of-color. Theory produces effects that change people and the way they perceive the world. Thus we need teorías that will enable us to interpret what happens in the world, that will explain how and why we relate to certain people in specific ways, that will reflect what goes on between inner, outer, and peripheral “I”s within a person and between the personal “I”s and the collective “we” of our ethnic communities. Necesitamos teorías that will rewrite history using race, class, gender, and ethnicity as categories of analysis, theories that cross borders, that blur boundaries-new kinds of theories with new theorizing methods. We need theories that will point out ways to maneuver between our particular experiences and the necessity of forming our own categories and theoretical models for the patterns we uncover. We need theories that examine the implications of situations and look at what’s behind them. And we need to find practical application for those theories.”

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