Writing has always been a safe place for me. A place to turn to when I need solace, peace, or an outlet for creative energy that I couldn’t quite place elsewhere. I thought I knew and understood its capabilities. In fact, I have written multiple times about what I thought its purpose was. Despite the fact that of course it is quite subjective, and every person uses it for their own needs or wants, I still tried to categorize it because I thought it was necessary.
Then I read words written by Gloria Anzaldua, a writer who I can’t even quite put into words, and something about my life simply shifted. She was assigned to me as reading for one of my university English classes when I was a fourth-year student. Since that day, my perspective of writing has been incredibly different. In fact, my perspective on a lot of things has been altered.
When you open her work, titled Borderlands: La Frontera, it’s overwhelming, to say the least. It’s written in both English and Spanish, it’s a mixture of poetry, prose, political narrative and a multiplicity of genres. So far I’m sure I’m convincing you that you should read some confusing academic work, right? Wrong. Delve in deeper, give it a chance, and I promise you won’t ever regret it. Even in the moments where you don’t entirely understand, you still somehow connect.
If my argument doesn’t seem strong enough, here is a quote that will change your mind:
“Writing produces anxiety. Looking inside myself and my experience, looking at my conflicts, engenders anxiety in me. Being a writer feels very much like being a Chicana, or being queer — a lot of squirming, coming up against all sorts of walls. Or its opposite: nothing defined or definite, a boundless, floating state of limbo where I kick my heels, brood, percolate, hibernate and wait for something to happen” – Gloria Anzaldua
Gloria Anzaldua is an everflowing stream of knowledge and creativity. She has experienced oppression in a manner most of us will never fathom, and yet her work is still accessible in so many ways. She makes me ask a thousand questions about the world and about myself, and that kind of introspect has without a doubt made me a healthier person. In the world we live in right now, there are very few things more pressing than developing empathy and compassion for others, and Anzaldua strives for this.
Some authors write narratives that draw you in and tug at your heartstrings until you can’t separate yourself from the work until you’ve hit the very end. They are of course very talented. However, they are no match for an author who can make you feel uncomfortable and interested simultaneously. Her goal is to teach you about the binaries of life, to break down boundaries we all experience in different forms until there’s nothing left but a dried up river that once separated you from those around you.
Relish in the discomfort, in the confusion, and in knowing that you will leave that text a better person than how you entered it. You might not see what I see or feel what I feel, but I promise you will have a reaction of your own that is entirely worth experiencing. Her name is Gloria Anzaldua, and she changed my life. Will you let her change yours?