This blog post is a review of
I first heard of Cherrie Moraga this last fall. Students were discussing Audre Lorde, and Moraga came up. I had out my laptop, so I quickly googled her. One of the first things that popped up was (nonsurprisingly) her Wikipedia page. “Cherríe L. Moraga (born September 25, 1952) is a Chicana writer, feminist activist, poet, essayist, and playwright.”
Oh god, I thought to myself. Yet another brilliant feminist activist I’ve never heard of, because all of my feminist readings have been written mostly by upperclass white women.
Moraga introduces herself as a “middle-aged lesbian living in Oakland with my beloved and her sometimes grown son, Mateo[…]” (p. 4). For the purposes of my reflection, I will introduce myself as well: I am a queer white woman, who was raised in a white suburban town where I grew up speaking English. I go to one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and I speak very little Spanish. And here’s a sad confession-before reading Borderlands, I didn’t know that there was a difference between Chicana/Latina-or the political connotations that exist around each word.
I am uncomfortable reading Moraga’s words. A feeling of otherness makes me shift in my seat, and surreptitiously look around. Half of the time, I have no idea what she’s talking about. At the beginning of her work, she has (kindly) included the “Xicana Lexicon.” Her fluid transition between English and Spanish lead me to my Spanish dictionary, and many of the places and things she references lead me to Google. I wince throughout the reading-it is not a comfortable feeling to realize what one’s own race has done to another, and realize the involvement of my ancestors in the colonization and destruction of another group
One page 7, Moraga discusses her fear of future oppression:
“Genocide is what I am afraid of, as well as the complete cultural obliteration of those I call my pueblo and the planet that sustains us. Gay men and lesbians (regardless of race) have, in the last two decades, become intimately connected to the question of survival because of the AIDS pandemic. But as AIDS activists have already learned-the hard way-AIDS and its threat of death impacts people-of-color communities differently, be they gay or heterosexual.”
What particularly struck me was Moraga’s criticism of white feminists who do try to work for rights of POC (People of Color). “In that specifity, I learned that, for the most part, when when white women spoke of women of color and racism, they were usually thinking of Black and white relations and, too often and to my disappointment, many African Americans were equally politically engaged in the same bipolar version of the history of U.s. race relations” (p 7).
I rejoice in this feeling of discomfort. I appreciate it. During the course of this class, we’ve all felt uncomfortable. Our privilege is examined by reading works written about and by people who are/were marginalized.
So maybe that’s what a Queer Work is. A creater tells the story of someone who doesn’t fit the mold-whether it be racial, sexual identity or gender identity- and we, as queer readers who don’t fit the mold-examine this work, our own “queerness” and thereby “queerify” the work.