Discovering Myself in Anzaldúa: Barbara Grabher

A key joy of our Women: A Fortnight of Celebration is conversation. We are enjoying speaking to people about the women that have inspired them and the books that have changed them. Barbara Grabher, Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Hull, will be leading a workshop on Friday, 13 March from 6-8 PM with Catherine Vulliamy, Gender Studies Scholar. I asked Barbara if there was a particular book that had inspired her and she has happy to share a bit about a formative work, Borderlands/La Frontera. She has also kindly loaned her copy of the book to us for our pop-up library, so if you’re interested you can pop in to peruse it yourself! Here’s what Barbara had to say:

“If being asked to name an inspiring book, I can easily answer: Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/ La Frontera. However, when trying to write about its inspirational capacities, my reactions slow down. I am torn between pages, excerpts and sentences, hoping that the printed letters will allow me to express the value this text holds for me. But skimming page after page, I need to come to terms with the fact that the inspiring effects of this book are maybe not found on a page but based on my experiences I shared when reading Anzaldúa’s words for the first time.

It is the beginning of a decade – something like 2010 or 2011. Within a short period of time, my world had turned upside down. Among many other things, I moved to a new city, started an undergraduate course and came out to myself, my friends and family as LGBT. The latter broke many of my previous expectations and assumptions about myself and my own future. Unsure what this coming out and identification meant, I searched for answers in the grand theories of feminism. After months, maybe even years of reading through tons of reading lists for classroom discussions and trying to recall academic arguments in exams that are given way too much importance, I encountered myself once again in preparations for an undergraduate module in my course of Anthropology. My studies opened my eyes to inequalities and injustice, but I continue to struggle to find to answers to my queries.

Ticking off reading materials in full speed for the next class, a red book cover with its yellow letters drew my attention. Entitled with the dual title Borderlands/ La frontera struck my attention and while turning pages I was struck by this other kind of writing laid out in front of me. Mixing Spanish and English, introducing slang in her expression, Anzaldúa captures aesthetically and contextually the merging and the breaking of identities. In my initial attempts, I understood nothing that is written on this page. But my lack of comprehension took me further into the book and to the discovery of myself between Anzaldúa’s lines.

For me, the auto-fictional book was more than just a classroom text. Neither poem nor theoretical analysis, it allowed me to situate myself in a strange land, defined as no-land. Beyond the geographical sphere of coordinates, la frontera is a symbolic location between societal norms, where no boundaries and yet all boundaries are being drawn. In this experience, Anzaldúa invited me for my own empowerment: Between and within my desperate search for answers, I learned to understand that I have to write my own responses to my lingering queries.”

As a Mestiza I have no country, my homeland cast me out; yet all countries are mine because I am every woman’s sister or potential lover. (As a lesbian I have no race, my own people disclaim me; but I am all races because there is the queer of me in all races.) I am cultureless because, as a feminist, I challenge the collective tured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet. Soy un amasamiento, I am an act of kneading, of uniting, and joining that not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meanings.

Gloria Anzaldúa

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