PQfEW: This Bridge Called My Back

I’m excited to note that although last week’s Powerful Quotes didn’t receive much comment, it is one of the most viewed and most searched-for posts from the past few weeks.  So here you go again.

All of the quotes this week come from an incredible anthology, This Bridge Called My Back. It was written, collected, and edited by feminists of color in the 80s, still responding to the repercussions of identity politics. The poems, essays, journal entries, and letters in this volume rage against racism and homophobia in mainstream political movements, describe the lived experience of being female and racially marked and perhaps also lesbian in American culture, reflect painfully on personal practices of racism and woman-hate that had to be unlearned, critique colleagues, postulate possibilities. It’s an incredibly visceral read, both indicting and inviting for a reader like me (who is mostly invisible except for that indelible female mark that sometimes looks like a target).

Unfortunately, it’s out of print. Otherwise I’d ask everyone to read it. I read it from a photocopy of a photocopy, but I did order one of the slightly more expensive “Haha it’s a rare book now!” copies because I’m fairly certain I’ll teach from this text eventually.

“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.”
-Gloria Anzaldua, “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers.”

I couldn’t resist another quote about writing, because that is one of the ways for me to enter this text and identify with it. I thought this quote chimed nicely with the Barbara Christian quote  last week, but this excerpt is part of a much longer description of Anzaldua’s struggle with the language, her right to make it speak her mind and testify to her subjecthood, and then her pleasure with language’s ability to metamorphose in the act of writing and surprise her, teach her something she doesn’t already know. “I say mujer magica, empty yourself. Shock yourself into new ways of perceiving the world, shock your readers into the same.”

The rest I submit to you to speak for themselves.

I’ve had enough
I’m sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody

Can talk to anybody
Without me

I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents. . .

I’ve got to explain myself
To everybody

I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.

Excerpt from “The Bridge Poem” by Donna Kate Rushin

I am awake now, my lover still sleeping beside me, wondering how we can blend our two worlds. How to mend the holes in our pasts, walk away bravely from the nightmares.
. . .
We both have no choice but to be survivors though the fears are still there. Whenever i see a crowd of men, my heart sinks to my feet, whenever i hear sudden noises, sudden crashing, anger, male noises, their very laughter is abrasive to my ears I shrink inside, walk close to the walls of my soul, i look for a place to hide

Excerpt from “Dreams of Violence” by Naomi Littlebear

I lack imagination you say

No. I lack language.
The language to clarify
My resistance to the literate.
Words are a war to me.
They threaten my family.

. . .

My family is poor.
Poor. I can’t afford
a new ribbon. The risk
of this one is enough
to keep me moving
through it, accountable.
The repetition like my mother’s
stories retold, each time
reveals more particulars
gains more familiarity.

You can’t get me in your car so fast.


Excerpts from “It’s the Poverty,” by Cherrie Moraga


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