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Some questions re: women of color and publishing

By Barbara Jane Reyes

Hi there, Harrieteers! It’s good to be back for National Poetry Month.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and blogging about lately is publishing venues for women of color. More specifically, I’m wondering about publishing venues run by women of color for women of color writers. In my blog post, I’ve discussed the publisher who brought us Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, and Making Face, Making Soul, as well as the Filipina anthology Babaylan, That’s Aunt Lute, based in San Francisco. There was also Norma Alarcón’s Third Woman Press, which gave us an early edition of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee (now available through University of California Press), as well as This Bridge Called My Back, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. I am thinking now also of Barbara Smith’s Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which gave us books by Filipina activist/former political prisoner Mila Aguilar, Mitsuye Yamada, Cherrie Moraga, and Audre Lorde. I am interested in the fact the creative and critical, interdisciplinary quality of these works.

I wonder if it was as simple as Anzaldúa or Cha saying to herself, I’m going to write a book, one that I do not already see in the world. And I wonder if Alarcón and Smith simply had to say, I’m going to publish these women’s works, because I do not see enough of these voices in the world.

These are books and authors to whom I was introduced as an undergrad in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, and it’s reasonable to say that I would not be the poet I am today without Borderlands and Dictee. My question is about women of color publishing now. Why so dispersed? Why so defanged? Why so reticent, so deferential to others’ authority? Why, when our publishing/published ancestors were fierce!

I am wondering if the time has passed in history, for women of color writers to be radical and unabashedly politicized, to mobilize and publish our sister scholars and artists, whether it’s history for women of color writers to be radical, fearless, and as an alternative to being deferential, creating and abiding by our own paradigms of self-determination and excellence.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, April 1st, 2011 by Barbara Jane Reyes.