Archive for May, 2007
What I love about being Americana: The way I can be whomever I choose to be, and then change my mind if I want to.
My biggest challenge in growing up Latina in America: Not meeting anyone’s expectations as to how I should behave.
My biggest support in growing up Latina in America: My family who criticized me lovingly and encouraged me to do whatever made me happy.
Why I am beautiful: I am beautiful because I am the offspring of two wonderfully beautiful people with kind hearts, brave souls and a hearty sense of humor; not to mention patience and love beyond limitations. I hope to someday pass these traits on to my own hija.
So, I am totally bummed that no one entered last week’s book giveaway contest. I am holding on to the books and will do a new book giveaway with them a little later this summer. I am eager for these great reads to wind up in your hands! The book officially launches on Friday, and I feel like I am running through quicksand to get things done. I had to go shopping today for something to wear to book events (now that I write full-time, I just wear my workout clothes all day and have about two outfits for the times that I need to look professional.) which has left me exhausted. But I had an interesting thing happen that related to the whole body image thing, and I thought I should share it (why spend so much time being candid in the book if I can’t be candid in real life, eh?) A girlfriend went shopping with me who is a stylist. It was like my own personal What Not to Wear without the television cameras. So when I was back in the dressing room, trying on a sleeveless dress that we thought might work for the launch party, I said, “Are you sure that I can wear this dress? Did you look at my arms?” I pointed to the place in question, but my girl would not even look that way. She stared me dead in the face and said, “Isn’t this party for a book you wrote on body image?” More than fair enough, eh? I walked out the store with the dress (and some shoes, earrings, and necklaces to go with it) because, honestly, if you allow yourself to get on that body bashing train, it does not ever slow down.
My grandmother passed away this afternoon at the age of 96 years. When I was little, I saw her yearly as she would visit us from Puerto Rico annually and we would go there either at Christmas or in the summer. When she came to the States to visit, she and I would share a room. She would turn my room into an altar with Holy Water from the church and statues of Jesus and Mary greeting you as you walked into the door. My parents left for Puerto Rico this morning, and I was hopeful that my father would be at her side in time to read her a passage that is in the book, at the end of Chapter 3. He wasn’t able to do that, and so I am excerpting just a bit of it here, perhaps in hopes that if I send a piece of it out into the Universe, it might reach her.
From a draft of Hijas Americanas:
Like many Latinas, I had a spiritual role model at a young age. My abuelita was devoted to the Church like no one else I knew. When arthritis ravaged her knees so badly that she could no longer kneel in devotion through a full Mass, she stood instead. As a child, Abuelita periodically visited from the island and stayed for months on end, caring for us. In my earliest memory, Iam three years old, and have unwittingly sat atop an anthill while playing outside. Abuelita, hanging laundry out to dry, heard my screams and rescued me from the swarm of ants biting me. She yanked off my overalls, hosed me down, naked in the yard, and prayed silently over me while I recovered. Wide-eyed, I watched her lips rush through the prayers, as if the speed of her “amens” could counter the speed of the poison. She was how I saw God.
Note: I tried to post a picture of my grandmother here from a scan, but technology has twharted me. Just picture the face of a Puerto Rican angel. There you go. That’s her.
This week’s M’ija, Mary Castillo, is from the literary world and just published a new book, Names I Call My Sister. Check her out here and then check her book out. What I love about being Latina: Every time we get together – if its a business networking thing or party – it’s like we’re all at a family barbeque
What I love about being Americana: The freedom of choice
My biggest challenge in growing up Latina in America: Spanish speakers have not always embraced me
My biggest support in growing up Latina in America: Latinos are the first to cheer each other on when we reach new milestones
Why I am beautiful: I believe that anything is possible.
So it looks like the book giveaway contest question didn’t excite anyone. We’ll have to go with something else because I want these great books to land in someone’s hands. How about this: when I was interviewing the women who participated in the book research, I asked them what books had made a positive difference in their development. So that’s the new question. What book (or books) made a positive difference in your development as you were coming of age. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts! Answers by end of day on Saturday get entered into the book giveaway contest.
Happy Monday! I am excited to announce Book Giveaway #3. With this book giveaway, we will celebrate some of the great books published by Seal Press (my press). There are three books waiting to land in somebody’s hands: The Anti 9 to 5 Guide by Michelle Goodman, Body Outlaws, edited by Ophira Edut, and Waking Up American, edited by Angela Jane Fountas. Waking Up American happens to have the essay in it that inspired Hijas Americanas (and introduced me to Seal Press). These are great books, and I am excited to share them with you. So here’s how this book contest will work. One of my favorite questions to ask the women that I interviewed was “What does beautiful mean to you?” To hear these women define beauty and then realize that they fit their own definition of beauty was a glorious thing. So, that’s my question for you. What does beautiful mean to you? How do you define beauty? Post your view of beauty here sometime between now and 8 pm EST on Friday, May 25, and I’ll put your name in a drawing for the books. Contest winners will be announced over the weekend. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on beauty.
In one of his essay-like chapters of Love is a Mix Tape (Crown), Rob Sheffield reflects on how Renee, his curvy wife, began to make her own clothes, leading her to a real empowerment. “The more she sewed, the easier it got for her to move and breathe, since she now had clothes she could move and breathe in, and feel totally hot while she did so. It was really intense to see how much control over her body she could have by taking control over her clothes. It took a lot of time to make them all, but she could sew for hours. While she worked she would lose all her nervous energy and glow like a conquering goddess… Renee’s sewing was a way for her to follow the changes in her body. She felt her hips growing more and more Appalachian, marking her as one of her people… There was a lot of history in the hips, and Renee was learning her history. With that sewing machine, she was making history of her own (pg. 114-115).”
I read this passage and immediately marked it. Both for Renee’s power and presence and ability to champion her self, but also for Rob’s ability to see it, appreciate it, celebrate it. Renee’s sewing reminds me of the only times that I am sad about my body changing as I grow older. Those times usually occur in a dressing room as I realize that yet another designer just doesn’t understand breasts and hips (and also doesn’t understand that women with breast and hips really want fabulous clothes, too). I’ve learned in recent years not to even covet the styles that I used to love, but, sometimes, I just can’t help it. I fell in love with this dress in a catalog this spring, and I had to have it. Launch party and two weddings, I thought. And so I ordered it and then eagerly awaited its arrival at my door. When I pulled it on, I realized that the band they had to cover the breasts (Yes, you can see how small it is in this picture. I just wanted to think that it was an optical illusion because why would they make a dress in my size—a size that clearly indicates that I am not stick-thin—with the bust piece sized for a Barbie doll. Seriously.), was the width of an Ace bandage. And the last time my chest could be covered with an Ace bandage was in 6th grade. Staring at that beautiful mineral color, I thought, “If I knew how to sew, I could probably make something happen here.” And then I was reminded of Renee who never got herself into that predicament in the first place. I must learn how to sew, and then I must become a fashion designer with a line called Apples and Pears.