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literature

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Anzaldúa, Gloria (1942-2004)  

American Latina lesbian editor and writer Gloria Anzaldúa connected racism and to posit a political queerness that interconnects with all struggles against oppression.

Anzaldúa was born and raised in a South Texas ranching environment. She pursued her formal education at Pan American University, the University of Texas, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. For many years she resided in Santa Cruz, where she worked on the editorial boards of journals and was a much-sought-after teacher and public speaker as well as a prolific writer.

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In 1981, Persophone Press published the first edition of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga. This Bridge was soon recognized as a landmark event in feminist publishing. It was the first articulation in a collective, systematic, and widely publicized form of the voices of feminists of color in the United States and their critiques of the racism and classism that had characterized much canonized feminist thinking and writing of the 1970s and 1980s.

A no less remarkable characteristic of This Bridge was its full engagement with lesbian concerns and voices, and the non-tokenistic presence of lesbian writers in all sections of the book. Both of the volume's editors identified as lesbians as well as Chicanas.

Almost ten years after the first publication of This Bridge, Anzaldúa edited a follow-up collection, Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (1990). This anthology, while continuing the critiques and proclamations of This Bridge, also takes some of that work as given in order to focus instead on the complexity of identifications, self-identifications, and differences between and among women of color.

Anzaldúa's own writing includes numerous published short stories, poems, talks, essays, and texts that combine and confound these genre categories, including the book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, published by Aunt Lute Press in 1987. Her work insistently refuses to prioritize any one component of her identity. This no doubt accounts for the relative marginalization of Anzaldúa's work, even today.

Although Anzaldúa won literary awards and is increasingly taught in Women's Studies classes, she continues to remain absent from the pages--and even the indexes--of most books of Chicano and Chicana criticism and from the syllabi of fashionable seminars in Lesbian and Gay Studies and Queer Theory in academic institutions (even though she used the term in Borderlands/La Frontera several years before it regained its current popularity in academic and activist circles).

But it is precisely Anzaldúa's multiple and enigmatic self-positioning and social relegation in and outside identities, canons, and institutions that offer the greatest challenge to queer theorists and activists, and to critics of lesbian and gay literatures. She wrote of the borderlands between the United States and Mexico, between and within cultures, genders, genres, languages, and the self.

The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Los atravesados live here: the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulatto, the half-breed, the half dead; in short, those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of the "normal."

Anzaldúa's work contests liberal pluralist delineations of lesbian and gay subjectivity merely in terms of identity or lifestyle, instead positing a politicized queerness that reclaims the revolutionary roots of gay liberation in its radical interconnectedness with all struggles against oppression. Her work demonstrates that if "queer" is not to become a category that normalizes middle-class white maleness, working-class queers, female queers, and queers of color must determine any queer agenda.

Anzaldúa died on May 15, 2004 from complications related to diabetes.

Ian Barnard

     

 
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Gloria Anzaldúa. Photograph by Margaret Randall provided by Aunt Lute Books (www.auntlute.com).
  
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    Bibliography
   

Alarcón, Norma. "Chicana Feminism: In the Tracks of the 'Native Woman.'" Cultural Studies 4.3 (1990): 248-256.

Andrist, Debra D. "La Semiótica de la Chicana: La Escritura de Gloria Anzaldúa." Mujer y Literatura Mexicana y Chicana: Culturas en Contacto, 2. Aralia López González, Amelia Malagamba, and Elena Urrutia, eds. Tijuana: El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 1990. 243-247.

Baldwin, Elizabeth. Interview with Anzaldúa. Matrix (May 1988): 1-33.

Freedman, Diane P. "Writing in the Borderlands: The Poetic Prose of Gloria Anzaldúa and Susan Griffin." Constructing and Reconstructing Gender: The Links Among Communication, Language, and Gender. Linda A. M. Perry, Lynn H. Turner, and Helen M. Sterk, eds. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992. 211-217.

Keating, AnnLouise. Women Reading Women Writing; Self-Invention in Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.

Saldívar-Hull, Sonia. "Feminism on the Border: From Gender Politics to Geopolitics." Criticism in the Borderlands: Studies in Chicano Literature, Culture, and Ideology. Héctor Calderón and José David Saldívar, eds. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991. 203-220.

Smith, Sidonie. "The Autobiographical Manifesto: Identities, Temporalities, Politics." Autobiography and Questions of Gender. Shirley Neuman, ed. London: Frank Cass, 1991. 186-212.

Torres, Héctor A. "Gloria Anzaldúa." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 122: Chicano Writers. 2nd series. Francisco A. Lomelí and Carl R. Shipley, eds. Detroit: Brucolli-Gale, 1992. 8-17.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Barnard, Ian  
    Entry Title: Anzaldúa, Gloria  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 3, 2007  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/anzaldua_g.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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