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A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000-2010

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A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness features essays and poems by Cherríe L. Moraga, one of the most influential figures in Chicana/o, feminist, queer, and indigenous activism and scholarship. Combining moving personal stories with trenchant political and cultural critique, the writer, activist, teacher, dramatist, mother, daughter, comadre, and lesbian lover looks back on the first ten years of the twenty-first century. She considers decade-defining public events such as 9/11 and the campaign and election ...
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A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000-2010

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Overview


A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness features essays and poems by Cherríe L. Moraga, one of the most influential figures in Chicana/o, feminist, queer, and indigenous activism and scholarship. Combining moving personal stories with trenchant political and cultural critique, the writer, activist, teacher, dramatist, mother, daughter, comadre, and lesbian lover looks back on the first ten years of the twenty-first century. She considers decade-defining public events such as 9/11 and the campaign and election of Barack Obama, and she explores socioeconomic, cultural, and political phenomena closer to home, sharing her fears about raising her son amid increasing urban violence and the many forms of dehumanization faced by young men of color. Moraga describes her deepening grief as she loses her mother to Alzheimer’s; pays poignant tribute to friends who passed away, including the sculptor Marsha Gómez and the poets Alfred Arteaga, Pat Parker, and Audre Lorde; and offers a heartfelt essay about her personal and political relationship with Gloria Anzaldúa.

Thirty years after the publication of Anzaldúa and Moraga’s collection This Bridge Called My Back, a landmark of women-of-color feminism, Moraga’s literary and political praxis remains motivated by and intertwined with indigenous spirituality and her identity as Chicana lesbian. Yet aspects of her thinking have changed over time. A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness reveals key transformations in Moraga’s thought; the breadth, rigor, and philosophical depth of her work; her views on contemporary debates about citizenship, immigration, and gay marriage; and her deepening involvement in transnational feminist and indigenous activism. It is a major statement from one of our most important public intellectuals.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Moraga’s prose is characteristically trenchant and her stance unapologetic as ever. But there is a tender quality of reflection here, too, even nostalgia, that strikes a new note. . . . [T]he sense of trying to hang on to, to remember, something vanishing is palpable in this book. It is a posture that Moraga strikes superbly, and the result is a strong articulation of resistance and, yes, hope, from one of the most important queer Chicana intellectuals of our time.” - Victoria Bolf, Lambda Literary Review

“Nostalgia, evolving consciousness, and the concept of (w)riting –writing to remember / making rite to remember / having the right to remember–lyrically permeate the pages of this book. Moraga’s ideas have matured and become more profound with the passage of time; I look forward to reading more of her eloquent resistance and wisdom in the coming years.” - The Feminist Texican [Reads]

“This is an overall compelling, timely, and on many fronts, prophetic read. There is just enough background discourse on Chicana feminist thought and history for those uninitiated readers, and many new critical reflections and insights for the more seasoned readers wondering what this author has to offer since her last influential work. Both will potentially walk away from this book with an overdue sense of indignation, as well as a sense of hope that within the burgeoning nest of Chicana consciousness and social activism, lies the golden egg of a just, social democracy in the United States.” - Christiane Grimal, GRAAT Anglophone Studies

A Xicana Codex reminds readers about the contributions women of color have made to feminist inquiry. . . . The book is a must for everyone, especially those interested in the intersections informing transnational women of color feminist practice.” - Alvina E. Quintana, Women’s Review of Books

“‘I am no prophet, only a witness to the writing already on the wall that divides my own native homeland’ says Cherríe Moraga in the opening of her contemporary codex. Moraga speaks directly, as a powerful voice of a pivotal generation, a generation that is aging and coming to terms with its urgent, collective story. This political memoir in essays is a testimony to the awakening of an indigenous consciousness that has been disappeared in the memory of colonized Americas. The collection is blessed by the drawings of Celia Herrera Rodríguez. They provide the ceremonial flow. They represent the voices of the plants, earth and elements that give dreaming to the human mind. What a powerful offering in a time of reckoning.”—Joy Harjo, Mvskoke Nation, poet, musician, performer, playwright

“Cherríe Moraga’s A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness is a hope fulfilled. After the passing of Gloria Anzaldúa, Chicana/o studies suffered something like an eclipse of the moon but here comes radical, creative light into our lives and scholarship once more. Moraga’s intellectual and emotional courage about sexuality, race, queerness, and feminist energy shows us that Barack Obama and all Americans also live in the time of Latinos and Xicanas. Underlying these essays is the creative question ‘how can this new demography of many colors and genders be cultivated into a new democracy?’”—Davíd Carrasco, author of Religions of Mesoamerica: Cosmovision and Ceremonial Centers

Women's Review of Books - Alvina E. Quintana

A Xicana Codex reminds readers about the contributions women of color have made to feminist inquiry. . . . The book is a must for everyone, especially those interested in the intersections informing transnational women of color feminist practice.”
Lambda Literary Review - Victoria Bolf

“Moraga’s prose is characteristically trenchant and her stance unapologetic as ever. But there is a tender quality of reflection here, too, even nostalgia, that strikes a new note. . . . [T]he sense of trying to hang on to, to remember, something vanishing is palpable in this book. It is a posture that Moraga strikes superbly, and the result is a strong articulation of resistance and, yes, hope, from one of the most important queer Chicana intellectuals of our time.”
The Feminist Texican [Reads]

“Nostalgia, evolving consciousness, and the concept of (w)riting –writing to remember / making rite to remember / having the right to remember–lyrically permeate the pages of this book. Moraga’s ideas have matured and become more profound with the passage of time; I look forward to reading more of her eloquent resistance and wisdom in the coming years.”
Christiane Grimal

“This is an overall compelling, timely, and on many fronts, prophetic read. There is just enough background discourse on Chicana feminist thought and history for those uninitiated readers, and many new critical reflections and insights for the more seasoned readers wondering what this author has to offer since her last influential work. Both will potentially walk away from this book with an overdue sense of indignation, as well as a sense of hope that within the burgeoning nest of Chicana consciousness and social activism, lies the golden egg of a just, social democracy in the United States.”
Letras Femeninas - Paloma Martinez-Cruz

“While I may turn to other writings for cultural criticism, Moraga provides what I have not been able to find on any other front: an indigenous Xicana path that insists on transgression as a political and spiritual imperative in a national environment whose core values are corrupt.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822349778
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 5/30/2011
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 400,633
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Cherríe L. Moraga is an award-winning playwright, poet, essayist, and activist. She is the author of Loving in the War Years and co-editor, with Gloria Anzaldúa, of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Moraga is a founding member of La RED Xicana Indígena, a network of Xicana activists committed to indigenous political education, spiritual practice, and grassroots organizing. She is an Artist-in-Residence in the Drama Department at Stanford University, where she also teaches in the Program in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

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Read an Excerpt

A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness

Writings, 2000–2010
By Cherríe L. Moraga

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2011 Cherríe L. Moraga
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4977-8


Chapter One

A XicanaDyke Codex of Changing Consciousness / 2000

In 1996, I wrote a memoir titled Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood. The book, initially prompted by my seven-year-old son's premature and threatened birth in 1993, was completed three years later, marked by the deaths of my son's paternal grandfather and a beloved uncle. And in this manner passes the generations, and our lives.

Waiting in the Wings is an extended narrative describing my growing relationship with my child through conception, his birth in Los Angeles, his many months in the hospital, the first three years of his life, and his final emergence into a thriving boyhood. I began to learn to write "fiction" in composing that narrative, drawing from whatever skills about dramatic tension and character development I had garnered as a playwright. Through the act of writing that so-called autobiography, I learned that a story well told is a story embellished and re-visioned just like the stories that poured from my mother's mouth in our family kitchen some forty years earlier. The fiction of our lives—how we conceive our histories by heart—can sometimes provide a truth far greater than any telling of a tale frozen to the facts.

Through writing Waiting in the Wings, I learned to reconfigure and rearrange dates, names, and chronologies to create a true narrative of my experience, generated by a relentless faith in dreams, memory, and desire. Since the completion of that memoir, my journal entries have moved away from an "I" fixed on the exact record of my experience to, I hope, something much deeper: I have encountered the "I" of "character" who is and who is not me, one which allows me the freedom of incorrect politics and a bravery not realized in my own life. So in that sense, this writing is as much an autobiographical narrative as it is a dream waiting to happen, based on some irrefutable facts.

THE FICTION OF OUR LIVES

Fact. I am a middle-aged lesbian living in Oakland with my beloved and her sometimes-grown son, Mateo, and her growing preteen granddaughter, Camerina, and my blood-son, Rafael Angel.

Fact. I've got it all. A ridiculously high mortgage, compensated by a sunset I can witness every clear night la creadora provides right from my front porch. Above it all. I sit above it all, above the bay's horizon and the airport Hyatt and Alameda's military base, turned-back Indian territory, and the Fruitvale barrio. I live with the barrio in my horizon, just south of my Berkeley whitedyke days and eight miles east of my early woman(of-color)hood in San Francisco. I got history in this territory and a woman my age who's as old as the hills, which is why I took her on new, cuz she remembered the hills of her own girlhood in Sacramento and southward all the way to Sandias, Tepehuanes. And that matters to both of us.

She taught me how to smoke rolled tobacco like you're praying to some god; although I knew it before. Somehow. When she taught me I remembered, like with most things she taught me, that it was a matter of remembering. She taught me how to build and burn a fire, even in the city. She taught me the importance of fire on a daily basis. Something you have to keep watch over, tend, nurture, coax along and control ... just like the boy you're raising. Who'da thought we'd live this long, raising babies and our babies' babies into our middle age? Like I said, I got it all.

Fact. My literary and theater career has been "marred" as much by my politicized cultural essentialism as by my sexualized undomesticated lesbianism, to say nothing of my habitual disregard for the requirements of genre and other literary conventions. I don't know that I am a good writer. I believe I have, at times, well-articulated moments of insight, but I am not always convinced, no matter how many letters I get from those lonely queer and colored ones telling me that my words save lives that, in fact, words can.

Fact. We are a colonized people, we Chicanos; my woman reminds me when I find my stomach tied in knots each time I sit down to write. I experience myself writing beneath the suffocation of a blanket of isolation and censorship. The most virulent is self-imposed and lacks the high drama of senator-sanctioned obscenity charges. The censorship I have experienced has come in the not-so-idle threats of gun-toting, mad-dog envidiosa coloreddykes and in just plain ole commercial disregard, where the money you need to do the work you do ain't there for the kind of work you do. This has especially been the case with my work in theater. I don't know, really, who my friends are as a writer, those with whom I share common cause. I wonder why so many of us, Chicana and Chicano writers, remain so enamored with white people, their privileges, and their goodies: the seduction of success. Why do we remain confused about who we are? Not Black. Not Indian. Not white. Then what? I believe that our confusion causes our writing to fall miserably short of the truly revolutionary literature it could be. I tend to read American Indian writers these days because they aren't afraid to betray "America" and always Toni Morrison because she's stayed Black looking back.

Fact. I have always lusted for women and am grateful that there was a lesbian feminist movement in 1974, which when I was twenty-one allowed me to recognize and act on this loving without shame, justified it without apology, and propelled me into oppositional consciousness with patriarchy. Mostly, I am grateful to that movement for saving me from many years of heartbreaking repression, I'm sure.

I'm also grateful—plain and simple—for her, my beloved, that there was a Chicano movement that invited her entrance, politicized and betrayed her, right around the same time that the white entitlement of lesbian feminism betrayed me. I am grateful for those first moments of consciousness, always born from a living experience of injustice turned to righteous rage, that first experience of genuine collectivism, that blessed epiphany of art-inspired action. And I am equally grateful for those early betrayals that forced both of us to keep looking elsewhere for a radical re-visioning of our lives. Those betrayals have shaped my political consciousness more profoundly than any easy solidarity. There is no home, I learned, except what we build with a handful of others through a tenacious resistance to compromise.

A RESISTANT COMBATANT

In the small world that is my queer familia we live as if our values shaped the world at large or more accurately as if our values might chisel away at some monolithic monoculture we attempt to subvert with our art, our blood, our daily prayer. This may be the truest fiction we inhabit, but it sustains us. For now.

Another maker of fiction, Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene), writes: "I made a very conscious decision to marry an Indian woman, who made a very conscious decision to marry me. Our hope: to give birth to and raise Indian children who love themselves. That is the most revolutionary act." When I stumbled upon these lines in Alexie's One Stick Song, my heart opened at the pure courage and simplicity of the statement. I felt him to be my relative in the naming of what I, as a Xicana lesbian, have kept secret for so long. For as taboo as it is to admit within the context of the firmly inscribed multiracial social democracy progressives paint of their imagined "America," I had a child to make nation, one regenerated from the blood-nations Mexicans born in (or coming to) this country are forced to abandon at the border. I had an Indian child to counter the loss of my family's working-class Mexican Indianism with each succeeding generation. I had a Xicano child cuz Raza's turning white all over the States.

Sometimes I think it is the "social advantage" of looking white enough to travel unnoticed among mainstream America that has put me in the position to recognize on a visceral level how spiritually unrewarding Gringolandia is. It may feed your belly but not your soul, I tell my Xicano students. And beneath this writing, I hear my son ask about his beloved Anglo grandpa, my father: "What about Papa Joe?" How do you teach a seven-year-old the difference between institutionalized ignorance, racism, bigotry, class arrogance, and the individual white people, breeds, and mixed-bloods that make up his family? How do you teach a child the word genocide and still give him reason to love beyond his front door?

The evolution of my own changing lesbian Xicana consciousness led me to make the same basic decision Alexie made: "to marry an Indian woman" and "to give birth to and raise Indian children who love themselves," not necessarily in that order, but, I believe, prompted by the same moral imperative. I can't write those lines, however, without acknowledging that from the perspective of some less informed North American Indian activists, Xicanos hold no rights to their indigenous identity by virtue of their Mexicanism. This perception is aggravated by the fact that the majority of Mexicans in the United States and México have historically denied (and been denied) their Native identities. I also can't write those lines without conceding that when most heterosexuals of color discuss breeding as a revolutionary act, they aren't necessarily thinking of their lesbian sisters and gay brothers as comrades in those reproductive acts of sexual and cultural resistance (especially given the white-washing queer identity has suffered in the public imagination). Historically, we may have been invited to bed by those cultural nationalists, but not to the tribal councils.

But for Indian children to love themselves, they must love their sex organs and their sexual desire. They must love the full range of their community, including their lesbian mothers and aunties and queer fathers and cousins. They must develop a living critical consciousness about their land-based history (outside of the White Man's fiction), a history that remains undocumented by mainstream culture and is ignored by the queer, feminist, and "Hispanic" communities. They must remember they were here first and are always Xicano, Diné, Apache, Yaqui, or Choctaw; for that memory can alter consciousness, and consciousness can alter institutionalized self-loathing that serves cultural genocide. Our children must become rigorous abolitionists of the slavery of the mind. They must think the taboo thought and cultivate in their own lives a profound knowledge about who they are, outside the framework of the U.S. nation-state. I don't know exactly how to teach a counter-culture of courage to my children, but I am working on it. And in this I am not alone.

For these reasons I believe my conversation about strategies for revolution as a Xicanadyke mother resides more solidly within the cultural-political framework of American Indigenism than in any U.S. gay and lesbian or feminist movements. At their cultural core these movements remain Euro-American, in spite of a twenty-five-year history of people-of-color activism. I have for the most part removed myself from conversation with the gay and lesbian feminist movement because most of its activists do not share my fears and as such do not share my hopes or strategies for political change.

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—sometimes the hard way—AIDS and its threat of death impacts people-of-color communities differently, be they gay or heterosexual. The pandemic is just one more murderous face in the long history of the systematic annihilation of poor and colored folk across the globe.

So, I fear aiDs as I fear gang violence as I fear the prison industrial complex as I fear breast cancer. I also fear the loss of Nuevo México to New York artists; the loss of Mexican Indian curanderismo to new age "healers"; the loss of Día de los Muertos to a San Francisco–style celebration of Halloween; the loss of indigenous tribal and familial social structures to the nuclear family (gay and straight); the cultural loss for children of color through adoption by white parents (gay and straight); the loss of art to commerce.

I think of Adrienne Rich's words from a generation ago: adapting John Donne, she wrote, "Any woman's death diminishes me." Twenty years later, I would amend Rich's statement and assert with equal lesbian feminist passion, "Every barrio boy's death diminishes me." I never knew I would experience it this way; this intimate sense of a pueblo in the body of a boy. Maybe motherhood has changed me. And then I think not, except for a growing compassion for those I have loved the most intimately in my life: Mexican mothers, unspoken and never spoken for. This love is what fundamentally propelled me to be a lesbian in the first place and it continues to do so. And so, I suffer their sons, their fathers, our men, while remaining a resistant combatant.

LOST TRIBE

The police delivered Linda's son to our door just before dawn this morning. He returned home a broken boy, crying as his mother, my woman, patched him up from a yanked hospital iv. Twenty-six years old, but in our bathroom, he is a boy of sixteen, wondering what had gone wrong. Everything was going all right—the job, the car, the room, the "stuff." "I was doing so good," he cries. I watch the back of his neck as his head falls onto his chest, wet with tequila tears, the sun-darkened brown of his skin against the white shirt collar, still crisp with Saturday night's starch. I see in him my own son's elegantly sculpted neck, the same silk of brown-boy color. I want to look away from this meeting of generations, this juxtaposition of contradictions. My son of seven sleeping safely between the sheets, my woman of forty-seven, hours later, on the street with her grown son in search of the car he had abandoned that night after a tequila-and testosterone-driven fistfight; after macho bravado and police threats; after father failure and mother abandonment. Or so he sees it.

A week later, the white Mexican therapist asks Linda, "What are you afraid of?" "That he'll be killed," she answers. I watch the therapist's face. She is exaggerating, this is hyperbole, he thinks. My woman, a veterana of a war the therapist does not witness. How is it we feel that our children's ability to flourish, to achieve some kind of real ánimo in their lives, is on our backs to carry, that their failure is our failure? How do we separate mother-guilt from an active resistance to the genocide of men of color by requiring them to grow up? How?

I am reminded of my comadre Marsha Gómez. How she acknowl edged in her mid-forties that she would never be free of the burden of her boy, that her son's "condition," as she called it, meant he would never be a fully functioning adult. I felt an unbearable sadness for her. Although her son was diagnosed schizophrenic, I sometimes wondered if his condition was anything more than colored and queer in the United States: mixed-blood, mad, and male? A year later, he would murder her. Marsha, like me, like my woman: a Xicanadykemamá.

He was one of the lost tribe. No romance about it. One of the lost ones who are so many of our sons now. I gotta boy following him. Somehow I think if I do good by Linda's boy, twenty-six going on sixteen, my little boy gotta chance. But it's hard to live up to. Big boy ain't my blood. I tell his mother, "I didn't break it." But I know in that resides the lie. "We all 'broke it,' him, them." And I'm only as good as the chance I give him, even if we fail. His blood is on my hands. I write these words like the beginning of a fiction about the end of a fact, but the question of his survival remains for both his mother and me. Somehow, this notion of us as a people, un pueblo, makes us mutually and collectively responsible for one another's survival. The privatization of the Anglo-American household makes no sense to us. He is family because he is Raza, although he holds my and his mother's lesbianism in contempt. A living contradiction: the mutuality of our responsibility to one another in an individualistic culture that divides and most surely continues to conquer us through those divisions. This son of ours: my antagonist and this country's volatile victim at once. This threatened and threatening machito, who is my gente, child, and brother. I want to write "brethren," for it is biblical, this grand story of nations and dislocations, exile and homecomings.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness by Cherríe L. Moraga Copyright © 2011 by Cherríe L. Moraga. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Drawings Celia Herrera Rodríguez xiii

Prologo: A Living Codex|xv

Agradecimientos|xix

A Xicana Lexicon xxi

1 Existo Yo

A XicanaDyke Codex of Changing Consciousness 3

From Inside the First World: On 9/11 and Women-of-Color Feminism 18

An Irrevocable Promise: Staging the Story Xicana 34

2 Warring Inside

What Is Left of Us 49

MeXicana Blues 51

Weapons of the Weak: On Fear and Political Resistance 54

California Dreaming 73

Cuento Xicano 76

Indígena as Scribe: The (W)rite to Remember 79

The Altar of My Undoing 97

3 Salt of The Earth

Aguas Sagradas 105

And It Is All These Things That Are Our Grief: Eulogy for Marsha Gómez 107

Poetry of Heroism: A Tribute to Audre Lorde and Pat Parker 111

The Salt That Cures: Remembering Gloria Anzaldua 116

4 The Price of Beans

South Central Farmers 133

The Other Face of (Im)migration: In Conversation with West Asian Feminists 135

Floricanto 146

Modern-Day Malinches 148

What's Race Gotta Do With It? On the Election of Barack Obama 151

This Benighted Nation We Name Home: On the Fortieth Anniversary of Ethnic Studies 163

Still Loving in the (Still) War Years: On Keeping Queer Queer 175

Epilogo: Xicana Mind, Beginner Mind 193

Appendix: Sola, Pero Bien Acompañada: The Art of Celia Herrera Rodríguez 201

Notes 209

Bibliography 229

Index 237

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