Today I’m wrapping up my favorite nonfiction reads of 2011 by focusing on a subject near and dear to my heart: feminism! A lot of these were some of the best books I read all year in any genre. Without further ado, here were my five favorite feminist reads listed in alphabetical order by title:
A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000-2010 by Cherríe Moraga (2011)
With its focus on learning from the past and the concept of “(w)riting to remember,” Moraga’s latest work positively blew me away. It’s a mix of poetry and personal essays that explore the painful realities of being a mother and queer woman of color in the 21st century. It will always have a permanent place on my shelf. Read my review here.
Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging ed. by Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany, and Nadine Naber (2011)
Hands down, one of the top three books I read in 2011. It’s an anthology of essays that focus on Arab and Arab American feminists’ experiences. I cannot stress enough how much I learned from these essays. I’m not exaggerating: every self-identified feminist needs to read it. Read my review here.
F ‘em!: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls by Jennifer Baumgardner (2011)
In you’re looking for a nuanced book on feminism that’s accessible to a wide audience (i.e., something not mired in academic jargon), F’ em! is a great option. Baumgardner collects some of her previously published essays and interviews various prominent second, third, and fourth wave feminists. Read my review here.
We interrupt our regularly scheduled Book Blogger Appreciation Week celebration to kick off Latina/o Heritage Month. I’ll be featuring a number of books by and about Latina/os from September 15-October 15 to celebrate.
I’ve long since held a fascination with artwork based on the Virgen de Guadalupe. A revered Catholic icon, La Virgen appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican peasant, in the deserts outside Mexico City in 1531. Ever since then, her image has meant different things to different people, and the use of her image in artwork continues to this day (in fact, I have an online collection of it here).
In 2001, the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico invited Chicana lesbian artist/activist Alma López to participate in a cyber art exhibit showcasing artwork by Chicana artists. One of López’s contributions, a digital collage titled Our Lady, ignited a firestorm of controversy and became the target of massive organized protests. Michael J. Sheehan, archbishop of Santa Fe at the time, stirred up more drama by referring to Our Lady as “a tart” and “a streetwalker.” Though the exhibition’s curator, Tey Marianna Nunn, fought for–and won–the right to keep Our Lady displayed for the duration of the exhibit, both Nunn and López received a barrage of hate mail and death threats. By printing the artwork on the front page of papers (without context and without permission) under headlines referring to the “Bikini Virgin,” the media–local, national, and international–sensationalized matters even more.
In the decade since these events initially occurred, several major scholars have analyzed the controversy through the contexts of feminism, colonialism, queer theory, art theory, and Chicana/o history. Our Lady of Controversy: Alma López’s Irreverent Apparition, edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Alma López, is a collection of essays and personal accounts that offers some of these diverse scholarly perspectives.
Today marks the first day of Women’s History Month. It is also International Women of Color Day, so to kick off Women’s History Month on this blog, I begin by acknowledging a large group of women whose murders remain ignored by the mainstream media:
Since the days of Prohibition, Juarez has been a place for First World visitors to come and indulge in any number of illicit pleasures (alcohol, guns, drugs, sex). It is also the site where global capital has been making a killing to the tune of billions of dollars in annual profit…Because pollution laws are conveniently lax, the factories can emit fumes and dump waste without much concern or coversight. For all these reason, the U.S.-Mexico border has been made into something of an international sacrifice zone.
I’m not sure how old I was when I first heard about the women who were being sexually violated, horribly mutilated, and discarded like garbage in the desert surrounding Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The femicide that has claimed the lives of hundreds of women–with thousands more unaccounted for–began in 1993, although no one can really know for sure. Looking at several of the time frames listed in Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera and doing the math, I was stunned to realize that I’ve been hearing about this femicide for at least fifteen years now. Over the years, I’ve been even more stunned to learn how many people still don’t know that the murders are even taking place.
To give a brief overview: since 1993, hundreds of women have been found in the desert, deserted lots, and landfills, as well as in more public areas. Mexican government officials and various NGOs estimate that around 350-600 murders have occurred, though there’s no way to get an exact figure, especially since thousands of women have disappeared without a trace over the years. The youngest of the (known) victims are five years old and the oldest are in their seventies, but most of the victims are teenagers and young women in their early twenties, many of whom worked in maquiladoras along the border. Before dying, many of the women suffered through various forms of unimaginable cruelty–stabbings, burnings, beatings, rape, genital mutilation, breast mutilation. Because of the nature of the murders, the femicide has often been sensationalized by the media. But as one of the book’s contributors, a forensic psychologist named Candice Skrapec, writes:
[The crime scenes in Juarez] are like what we see in North America in cases involving the sexual violation of the victims…the motive may be less sensational, and, in fact, more like what we are accustomed to seeing: sexual violations of victims for purposes of personal gratification on the part of the offenders who then discard the bodies.
Yet to this day, the crimes continue to go unpunished. As more information about the femicide came to light, the victims were the ones who were initially blamed by the government, police, and the media for their own murders and disappearances; they were rumored to be prostitutes or wild girls who liked to stay out and party, leaving themselves vulnerable to attack.