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I was cleaning my bookshelf this morning -- by cleaning I really mean moving the books around to make it look "less" cluttered. I know, I know, I am terrible, but over the years I have accumulated too many books to the point where I have forbidden myself from purchasing any unless I absolutely need them, or if they're available for the Kindle or Nook -- yes, I have both .... but I like the Kindle better.

While I was "cleaning" I stumbled across a forgotten copy of Lorna Dee Cervantes' Emplumada. I originally read Emplumada in a Chicana Literature course in 2010. I absolutely adored this course and how my professor pushed the students a step further. I loved her (my professor) so much I wound up taking two additional classes with her. The majority of the course materials for my other Chicano Studies courses dealt with men, the Chicanos, but spoke very little of the women. The feminist and queer-theory lectures struck a nerve in some people, but it was refreshing to see a professor focus on the women writers instead of the men. It really bothered me when some students would make off-hand comments by stating "Another Lesbian author... I didn't know I signed up for a feminist/lesbian course." Associating feminism with being lesbian will always have a negative effect on me, and it's sad that too many people find a connection between the two. If it's not being a lesbian, it's being labeled as a "man-hater".  Yup, ignorance never fails to amaze me.



As I flipped through the pages of Emplumada, I was reminded of how important it is to introduce Chicana writers to Latina youth. Unless they are heavily involved with literature or poetry, I doubt many young Latinas would even know who Lorna Dee Cervantes is and how her poetry helped women during its publication. I am ashamed to say I did not know who she was until I took that course, but I've been expanding my familiarity with Chicana/o and Latin American authors ever since that fateful semester.

Here's a short description of Emplumada taken from the Poetry Foundation:
"The term Emplumada can be translated as a combination of “pen flourish” and “feathered,” and it ties poetry’s concern with beauty and myth to Cervantes’s own obsession with language. Cervantes’s use of Spanish in her first collection presaged the struggles over bilingualism that took place in the 1990s by presenting Spanish and English side-by-side, switching seamlessly from one to the other. Emplumada includes verses of mourning, acceptance, and renewal and offers poignant commentary on the static roles of class and sex, especially among Hispanics.... But Emplumada also dramatizes the world of Hispanic women, showing the stark social realities and static roles they are often forced into, as well as speaking more generally to the liminal position of Mexican Americans in white America..."

I may need to reread this poetry collection, such a shame I've neglected to re-read it since 2010. My favorite poem is "Emplumada", but my favorite quote comes from "Caribou Girl".

Quote:
" ... the girl some thought too strange,
too dark, who spoke the cadence
of her own mythology, her own sanity,
with the words from books
trailing her lips like shadows...."

"Emplumada"

When summer ended
the leaves of snapdragons withered
taking their shrill-colored mouths with them.
They were still, so quiet. They were
violet where umber now is. She hated
and she hated to see
them go. Flowers

born when the weather was good - this
she thinks of, watching the branch of peaches
daring their ways above the fence, and further,
two hummingbirds, hovering, stuck to each other,
arcing their bodies in grim determination
to find what is good, what is
given them to find. These are warriors

distancing themselves from history.
They find peace
in the way they contain the wind
and are gone.

Views: 626

Tags: chicanas, college, latinas, literature, poetry, poets

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