On memoirs of the marginalized

“People really like hearing about how sad it is to be marginalized.” -Fabian Romero, in his recent interview with Nia King.

I’ve been listening to Fabian Romero’s silky smooth voice, discussing how the sob stories of marginalized folks are paradoxically used to make more fortunate people feel better about themselves. It seems like the voices of the marginalized are often amplified more so when they can generate this kind of feel-good sympathy. Because of this, in my opinion, we don’t get varied perspectives coming from certain marginalized communities.

When growing up, everything I ever read by and about Latinas centered shame and repression and suffering and exploitation. As if that’s all our lives amounted to, as if we couldn’t be funny or happy or complex through it all. One reason I published my pre-teen diaries as a blog/zine series was because I wanted to fill this huge void in the legacy of Latina memoir; the lack of lighthearted, humorous, and goofy narratives about young women. I think the same goes for many other marginalized groups.

Young white women feature in so many movies/books about ~rebelling against the norm~ and wearing cute clothes and listening to good music, while young women of color more often feature in movies/books about rape, war, teen pregnancy, crime and/or poverty. There is some crossover with white authors like Dorothy Allison or Laurie Halse Anderson, but overall there is comparatively a huge lack in representations of women of color that don’t center some kind of degradation or trauma.

Of course, being marginalized often comes with trauma— in fact it’s almost inevitable. But I HATE that, especially as a Latina survivor, trauma is all I’m expected to share with people. I’ve dealt with shame and suffering growing up— at the hands of men, at the hands of white people and even at the hands of my own. But I am not my trauma; I’ve had good times, great times growing up as a nerdy Latina art kid. Girls of color need more of those stories too. We too can be the weird alternative kids, kids who are precocious and moody and goofy and disoriented and don’t fit in.

One reason I love Junot Diaz is because he writes real deep stuff about being part of a diaspora, but is also SUCH a DORK in the way he betrays his devout interest in sci-fi and other things people think are limited to the scope of white Americans. I’ve argued with some white Americans who say they can’t take him seriously because of these admissions. Why should it be so unsettling that immigrants, people of color have lives and interests that mirror your own? I once had a 6 hour conversation with an undocumented woman who survived a war in Mexico— but most of what we talked about were embarrassing dating stories and our favorite bands. I’m just curious as to why girls of color, even the survivors and refugees, are rarely allowed to acknowledge the sides of themselves that are not addled by tragedy. They definitely exist. And they deserve to be published.


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