A Lover’s Discourse on a Bridge, by Sandy Soto

22 Mar

IMG_2796

1.

attente / waiting

Tumult of anxiety provoked by waiting for the loved being,

subject to trivial delays (rendezvous, letters, telephone calls, returns).

–Roland Barthes

Last Monday, my blasé sorting through the day’s mail turned to femme giddiness. Tearing open a cardboard book box, I caught a flash of the black and red: Bridge had finally re-made its way home. Since 2008, when the book last fell out of print, the hunger for its reappearance had been collective and collecting. Such is the staying power of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, co-edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa (1981). Its comings and goings and returns across 34 years and 5 presses:

  • 1981, Persephone Press
  • 1983, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press (2nd edition)
  • 1988, ism press (adapted Spanish edition, co-edited by Moraga & Ana Castillo, translated by Castillo and Norma Alarcón)
  • 2002, Third Woman Press (expanded 3rd edition)
  • 2015, SUNY Press (4th edition)

bridge covers

Easy to type up that matter-of-fact list. And comforting to finally be able to type the last the most recent entry with certainty. But the listing feels stagnant, not beginning to capture the moods, the attente / waiting, the uncertain periods of betweenness, what Moraga called in a radio interview earlier this month, “the pause.”

For many of us, those pauses between editions held anticipation:

  • Will it come back again?
  • And, if so, what changes will have been made to the Table of Contents? And why?
  • What is Anzaldúa’s relationship to the book now [before her death in 2004]? Moraga’s?
  • What about Moraga and Anzaldúa’s own relationship to each other?
  • The original contributors’ relationships to their own now-dated writings and to their former selves?
  • Do younger generations have an investment in “women of color feminism” / “U.S. Third World Feminism”? And, if so, how would that politics differ from what was imaginable during the 1970s feminist scene that helped shape the first edition?
  • Will I ever be able to put the book on a syllabus again? And, if not, how to teach photocopied selections from Bridge in a way that captures the sheer power of the book in all of its complicated and wonderful physicality, its cover-to-cover wholeness, its assembling through/across/within difference, rather than in spite of it?
  • If it finally is republished, will my own interest in it still be as alive as it once was?

2.

Souveinir / remembrance

Happy and/or tormenting remembrance of an object, a gesture, a scene, linked to the loved being and marked by the intrusion of the imperfect tense into the grammar of the lover’s discourse.

–Roland Barthes

The anticipation and unknowingness generated in and by the pauses, for me, is part of the pleasure of relating to Bridge as a living process. Each return, if and when it does come, adding yet another layer of texture. If you were to count the number of unique prefaces, forewords, introductions, and afterwords written or co-written by Moraga and Anzaldúa—never mind Kate Rushin’s introductory “The Bridge Poem,” or the translators’ notes and publishers’ notes—you’d easily get to a dozen. That’s a lot of situating. And that material in and of itself tells a particular story about Moraga and Anzaldúa—their changing political views over time and even their implicit disagreements with one another about the bounds and strategies of women of color feminism.

But what’s been most interesting for me as a follower is to think about the unsituated changes, trying to guess at and learn from the reasons for the quiet alterations. (My sleuth-love of the small detail is a topic for a very different kind of confessional post.)

  • How/why did Anzaldúa’s name go missing as co-editor on the Spanish edition?
  • In Moraga’s new Introduction, “Catching Fire,” how does her editorial bracketed insertion of “Indigenous” change the meaning of the Combahee River Collective’s self-naming?

“‘If Black [Indigenous] women were free…everyone else would have to be since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression'” (xix).

Moraga attaches this endnote to “[Indigenous]”:

“Black women are Indigenous women, once forcibly removed from their ancestral homeland. If not in the specifics, the major ideological tenets of the 1977 Combahee River Collective statement can serve today as a treatise for Indigenous women’s rights movements globally” (n. 6, xxv).

  • And, on the 4th edition’s Table of Contents, how/why did Max Wolf Valerio’s name get reverted back to the 1st edition’s “Anita Valerio” when the 3rd edition allows him to be listed on the TOC as who he is: “Max Wolf Valerio”? If the answer to that question is that Max was Anita in 1981 and that “It’s In My Blood, My Face—My Mother’s Voice, the Way I Sweat” somehow reflects Anitaness and not Maxness, was that Valerio’s own understanding and decision? SUNY’s? Moraga’s? Some happy combination? Who gets to decide? And/or, if Moraga wanted the 4th edition to be more loyal/faithful to the 1st edition than was the 3rd, then why are the other changes not disloyal (Donna Kate Rushin is now Kate Rushin; 3 additional poems by Rushin are included in the 4th edition; new artwork on the cover and between the covers; etc.)?

3.

These are actually not such “small detail” kinds of questions, after all. They go to the heart of the politics of representation, difference, self-naming, agency—to name just a few of the bricks that give Bridge its force. We can’t know what Anzaldúa would have thought about these questions or about the 4th edition, even if the statement provided by the her literary trust (presumably written by AnaLouise Keating) notes that she “would be pleased with the additional possibilities this publication promises” (xxvii). We can count on Moraga to be characteristically open about her process. One thing that I’ll always love about her style is its raw honesty, her generous willingness to put herself out there.

But I’d also love to keep learning from and knowing about the other contributors to Bridge. In relation to the many introductions, prefaces, forewords and afterwords that give Moraga and Anzaldúa the power and freedom to grow, move, change, and reflect over time, we have such little access to the changes/thoughts/reflections of Valerio, Genny Lim, Jo Carillo, and doris davenport, to name just a few.

And I encourage those of us who are readers/fans/teachers/followers of Bridge to do more than celebrate it! It deserves to be celebrated, for sure. But it also deserves good solid readings and re-readings. For if Bridge is truly a living process, it belongs to all of us, doesn’t it?

7 Responses to “A Lover’s Discourse on a Bridge, by Sandy Soto”

  1. Annemarie Perez March 22, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    Wonderful Sandy. My copy hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m looking forward to having it in my hands. I too comb over the layered forwards and prefaces, trying to understand the relationships. Doing this goes back to my first reading of Bridge when I was an undergraduate and imagining a radical feminist of color utopian community that had somehow produced this magical book. Knowing that, like so much, it came out of pain as well as love doesn’t diminish its beauty.

    I just taught it using my bootlegged PDF. I’m glad I won’t have to do that again. Thanks again for such a joyful review.

    • sksoto March 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

      thanks for your sweet feedback, Annemarie. would love to keep the conversation going. will you be at mla in january? i’m giving a paper on it there…

      • Annemarie Perez March 22, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

        I plan on going to MLA (and ASA) and would love to hear what you have to say about Bridge. Back in 2013 I gave an MLA paper on the evolution of the Bridge cover art from edition to edition, juxtaposing it with the forwards. Can’t wait to see how it’s positioned in the new one.

        BTW, did you see who’s not in this edition? I remember the SUNY editor at ASA saying that one of the authors no longer wanted to be included.

      • Dionne March 30, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

        Hi Sandy, I’m teaching it this quarter in my Theories and Methods in WGSS course as part of a larger conversation about intersectionality theories. I’m really excited about dialoguing with the “fourth wave” about it (maybe there is something about a “fourth edition” at this particular historical moment…).

  2. Valeria Martinez March 22, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    “I am a woman with a foot in both worlds; and I refuse the split. I feel the necessity for dialogue. Sometimes I feel it urgently.”

    ― Cherríe L. Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color

    Thank you professor Sandy for helping me find who I really am, and for answering so many urgent questions that I thought I would never find the answers to.

    I can’t wait to get my own copy!

    With lots of love,

    Valeria Martinez

  3. Audrey Silvestre (@audreysilvestre) March 24, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    yes! Always left with the feeling that paying attention to details is perhaps looking for chisme, recreating versions of what I think may have happened. Cant wait to get my copy and let my imagination run wild.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. New and Noteworthy | - March 27, 2015

    […] Soto reflects on the most recent edition of Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa  This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of […]

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