Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Ok, if you read my last post about Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older, then you know I’ve been thinking a little bit about the dualities contained within individuals lately. Broderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa is the epitome of this conversation from a her own real life perspective. A fair warning; this book is not all in English.  Now, the only language that I know is English, I still knew what was going on and I believe I gained something from reading the book. I did spend enough time on Google Translate figuring out the Spanish parts of the book to know that if you speak Spanish and English you’ll a get fuller more complete and textured reading experience. I suggest everybody read this book, and, if anything, not knowing Spanish will make more visceral to the English speaking reader the experience of many Latinx, Chicanx, and Spanish speaking Americans.

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Borderlands/La Frontera is a collection of essays and poems in which Gloria Anzaldúa explores how we define ourselves via her own experiences as a Chicana, a lesbian, an activist, and a writer. Her essays are not her already set in stone definitions of what it means to be each of these things rather, they depict her efforts to simultaneously embrace and reject the social expectations that come with each label to be at peace with the “she” she is. Gloria Anzalúa grew up right next to the Mexican/United States border which she points to as a physical manifestation of the ideas she’s talking about, the borders contained within. The life she describes living is one of never being quite enough; no matter what group she was encountering there was part of her that had to be suppressed,  shamed, or hated. This self hate is aided and encouraged by every culture’s desire to be better than “the other”, instead of embracing and appreciating the differences in each other and ourselves.

This is a lot for just one book to cover, especially since she’s not restricting herself to just one “border” within, she’s talking about all them. What I appreciate about this book is that she’s tackling a large topic with a microscope pointed towards herself.  It would have been very easy for her to be very academic and look at statistics of various groups that support her points and separate each issue into it’s own chapter. Instead she bares all to the reader. She let’s herself become the studied and vulnerable which adds a beautiful and heart wrenching amount of texture and feeling to the book.

In particular, I appreciate that she is a poet.  If I didn’t know before reading her essays, I certainly would have figured it out while reading. She uses such beautiful language and imagery.  Now, you don’t have to be a poet to pick the most perfect word, but poets certainly have a knack for it. She’s discussing intangible, abstract ideas that if she’d tried to be less poetic, it would have been significantly less effective. She layers facts and feelings by choosing the most exact word to puncture indoctrinated ideas of who we have to be. It made my little poet heart very happy.

Common Place Book Entries:

“Humans fear the supernatural, both the undivine (the animal impulses such as sexuality, the unconscious, the unknown, the alien) and the divine (the superhuman, the god in us).  Culture and religion seek to protect us from those forces.”

-Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa

“The queer are the mirror reflecting the heterosexual tribe’s fear: being different, being other and therefore lesser, therefore subhuman, in-human, non-human.”

-Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa

“I want the freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of my entrails.”

-Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa

“Silence rose like a river and could not be held back, it flooded and drowned everything.”

-Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa

“The writer, as shape-changer, is a nahual, a shaman.”

-Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep listening. Keep creating.

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