Anazaldua and I

My knowledge of who I am or where I come from is limited. When I was born I was passed from one set of arms to the next and for a while, none hung on for too long. I know that I was born and I know that my mother must have been present. I don’t know if my father was there, he might have opted to stay home with his wife. I know that my mother was “big” and that “big” probably doesn’t mean tall because I’m 5’3”. I know that some combination of genetics produced brown eyes and equally brown eyebrows but blonde, curly hair. I know that my mother liked being pregnant, that she liked the attention it gave her, but that she didn’t like raising children. I know it was a closed adoption. And that’s all I know.

No family history, no list of cancers or disease that I’m predisposed to, no medical history at all. No idea of if I have my father’s nose or my mother’s eyes. No idea who my father and mother are or what they do or even if either one of them is still alive.

But I know my mom and dad. My mom’s family emigrated from Poland and hid their Jewish-ness. My dad’s family emigrated from Ireland. My great-great uncle was Al Capone’s attorney and turned him in for tax evasion and was subsequently shot down on the street. His son was a decorated air force veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor and the O’Hare airport in Chicago. My mom’s brother played football for the Cleveland Browns and is a die-hard Broncos fan.

I bet I traded up. Traded a family who was happy to trade me for a family full of doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs and mob connections and hero status and a long list of accomplishments that puts a lot of pressure on me to be something.

I’m made up of many languages and many places and many cultures – all adapted, none inherent. My mom spoke Polish on the phone to friends when she didn’t want me to know what she was saying about me. The catholic school in the ghetto that I attended to avoid public school preached mass to me in Latin. I was taught Spanish from kindergarten through my sophomore year of high school when I decided French was cooler. I took a chaotic combination of French, Greek, and Latin throughout my first several years of college. (All of which I enjoyed significantly more than my History of the English language class for my English major) I’m a jack of all languages, a master of none. A box checked “other”. All of the above.

I am not a creative writing major, but when I write I know who I want my audience to be. I know what language they speak, or don’t speak. I know what I want them to know and I know what I want to keep from them. I target them.

Perhaps my biggest issue with Anazaldua is my interpretation of her. I feel she spends too much time crawling up onto her high horse and not enough time making a case to her audience. Though I really tried to make myself appreciate her Boarderlands, I had trouble getting over the initial irritation of her language. Its not that I was frustrated by my inability to understand all of which she was writing, I was frustrated by her deliberate and successful attempt at writing something that her general audience would be unable to understand. Though she seemingly attempts to give the reader a deeper understanding of who she and her people are, any understanding becomes convoluted unless the reader is not only multi-cultural but also multilingual. I tried to set my frustration aside and appreciate her attempt but I felt that her approach to making her readers understand and sympathize could have been better executed.

I did like the way that Anazaldua provided different perspectives on various historical events that I was aware of and I appreciated her development, however it all was so shadowed by development of languages that I couldn’t fully appreciate anything the text had to offer.


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