Telling to Live

Latina Feminist Testimonios

Telling to Live

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: 19 b&w photos Published: September 2001

Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs

Telling to Live embodies the vision that compelled Latina feminists to engage their differences and find common ground. Its contributors reflect varied class, religious, ethnic, racial, linguistic, sexual, and national backgrounds. Yet in one way or another they are all professional producers of testimonios—or life stories—whether as poets, oral historians, literary scholars, ethnographers, or psychologists. Through coalitional politics, these women have forged feminist political stances about generating knowledge through experience. Reclaiming testimonio as a tool for understanding the complexities of Latina identity, they compare how each made the journey to become credentialed creative thinkers and writers. Telling to Live unleashes the clarifying power of sharing these stories.
The complex and rich tapestry of narratives that comprises this book introduces us to an intergenerational group of Latina women who negotiate their place in U.S. society at the cusp of the twenty-first century. These are the stories of women who struggled to reach the echelons of higher education, often against great odds, and constructed relationships of sustenance and creativity along the way. The stories, poetry, memoirs, and reflections of this diverse group of Puerto Rican, Chicana, Native American, Mexican, Cuban, Dominican, Sephardic, mixed-heritage, and Central American women provide new perspectives on feminist theorizing, perspectives located in the borderlands of Latino cultures.
This often heart wrenching, sometimes playful, yet always insightful collection will interest those who wish to understand the challenges U.S. society poses for women of complex cultural heritages who strive to carve out their own spaces in the ivory tower.

Contributors. Luz del Alba Acevedo, Norma Alarcón, Celia Alvarez, Ruth Behar, Rina Benmayor, Norma E. Cantú, Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Gloria Holguín Cuádraz, Liza Fiol-Matta, Yvette Flores-Ortiz, Inés Hernández-Avila, Aurora Levins Morales, Clara Lomas, Iris Ofelia López, Mirtha N. Quintanales, Eliana Rivero, Caridad Souza, Patricia Zavella


Telling to Live may be one of the most important books published in the last few decades. Latinas collectively have not had a book like this before that features so many different backgrounds and cultures. . . . The inclusion of all these mix-and-match identifications is what qualifies this book to be required reading in women’s studies classes all across the globe. . . . Even if you are not of Latin descent, anyone who identifies with hardship and triumph in their own lives will connect with Telling to Live. Que vivan las Feministas Latinas!” — Jocelyn Climent , Bust

“[A] solid collection of writings that bear witness to history and society through the revelations of personal and professional experiences. . . . [C]hallenging, thought-provoking, and sometimes painful pieces on the topics of empowerment; measure; the body and memory; and passion and celebrations. . . . [T]his book is recommended for all academic and general libraries.” — M. V. Ekstrom, Choice

“Groundbreaking. . . . [It] should be required reading for all women’s studies, American studies, and American history students. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.” — Library Journal

“It is a bold political statement that recognizes the complexity of Latina identities; a statement, moreover, that dares to challenge the assumptions about what constitutes knowledge in the academy.” — Andrea Noble , Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies

“The … textual space challenges both the opinions and labels, held by members of the group and by outsiders, that ultimately devalue the individuals. Testimonio has allowed the academics of Telling to Live to achieve their multilateral objectives….” — Kathryn Quinn-Sánchez , Chicana/Latina Studies

"[A] collection of vivid first-person narratives and short stories, poignantly candid family snapshots, poems, taxonomies, and dialogues. . . . This is a vividly concrete reminder of the spaces these Latina women are attempting to negotiate or to bridge; as they acknowledge, ‘we must walk the fine line of contestation and complicity.’ . . . [T]he volume stands as an alternately chilling and inspiring monument to the women who wrote it, and to the many others who made that writing possible." — Anny Brooksbank Jones , Biography

"[A] complex view of the differing social, racial and economic histories which are too often erased under the umbrella terms Latina and Chicana." — Tace Hedrick , NWSA Journal

"[A] moving account of these women's life stories. They eloquently write about their struggles to overcome pain and abuse, to achieve success in their personal and professional lives, and of their discovery of a profound sense of sisterhood. . . . All of the writings are informative about the diversity of Latina perspectives. . . . This book should hold wide appeal for students of Women's Studies, American Studies, Latino/a and Ethnic Studies, and the general reader interested in the experience of Latinas in the United States!" — Judy Maloof , Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies

"[A] rare and important collection of autobiographical narratives, snapshots, short stories, poems, and dialogues." — Amanda Davis, Aztlán

"[A]n excellent basis for a seminar or reading group on women and gender in Latin America. . . . [A] fascinating document." — Linda B. Hall , Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Poignant. . . . Insofar as accomplishing their stated goal, to explore the complex intersections of race, class, gender, nationality, ethnicity, and sexuality with regard to coalition building, Telling to Live is a highly successfully undertaking. . . . [A] laudable enterprise with far-reaching implications for those of us hoping to one day embark upon similar paths paved by the trail-blazing accomplishments of these testimoniadoras." — Marie Sarita Gaytán, Latino Studies

"In this unprecedented volume, the Latina feminist group successfully shape narratives that make women's lives accessible to multiple audiences and give meaning to lived experiences that are often erased. . . . [A] fascinating and challenging read." — Manuela Costantino, Canadian Literature

Telling to Live is a groundbreaking text—important in its outreach, inclusiveness, and power—that expands, qualifies, complicates, and illuminates the ground of our discourse the way the best texts do—through transformative narratives, stories, and poems that resist the neat paradigms and –isms of our time. It is also a text that will fill an alarming gap in the academy, where silence or simplification of Latina perspectives still prevails.” — Julia Alvarez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

“Twenty years after the publication of This Bridge Called My Back, this stunning collection of writings by Latina feminists raises the stakes of collaboration across race, class, nation, and sexuality. Telling to Live challenges prevailing research practices and forges a model of deep collaboration for future generations of scholars.” — Angela Y. Davis, author of Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Papelitos Guardados: Theorizing Latinidades Through Testimonio 1

I. Geneaologies of Empowerment 25

Certified Organic Intellectual / Aurora Levins Morales 27

My Father’s Hands / Yvette Gisele Flores-Oritz 33

Vignettes of a Working-Class Puerto Rican Girl in Brooklyn, New York / Celia Alvarez 39

Silence Begins at Home / Patricia Zavella 43

You Speak Spanish Because You Are Jewish? / Rina Benmayor 55

Getting There Cuando No Hay Camino / Norma E. Cantú 60

Reflection and Rebirth: The Evolving Life of a Latina Academic / Iris Ofelia López 69

Mi Primera Amiguita: Carmelita / Gloria Holguín Cuádraz 86

The House That Mamá Biela Built / Daisy Cocco de Filippis 90

Lightning / Mirtha N. Quintanales 96

My Name Is This Story / Aurora Levins Morales 100

Resisting the Alcemy of Erasure: Journey to Labor Ideas / Clara Lomas 104

Esta Risa No Es de Loca / Caridad Souza 114

A Esconditas: A Chicana Feminist Teacher Who Writes/A Chicana Feminist Writer Who Teaches / Norma E. Cantú 123

Canto de Mi Madre/Canto de Mi Padre / Inés Hernández Avila 132

Daughter of Bootstrap / Luz del Alba Acevedo 139

Beyond Survival: A Politics/Poetics of Puerto Rican Consciousness / Liza Fiol-Matta 148

I Can Fly: Of Dreams and Other Nonfictions / Eliana Rivero 156

II. Alchemies of Erasure 167

The Christmas Present / Caridad Souza 169

Snapshots from My Daze in School / Celia Alvarez 177

Point of Departure / Mirtha N. Quintanales 185

Another Way to Grow Up Puerto Rican / Liza Fiol-Matta 192

El Beso / Ruth Behar 196

The Prize of a New Cadillac / Yvette Gisele Flores-Ortiz 201

La Tra(d)ición / Latina Anónima 204

Between Perfection and Invisibility / Latina Anónima 207

Diary of La Llorona with a Ph. D. / Gloria Holguín Cuádraz 212

Welcome to the Ivory Tower / Latina Anónima 218

I Still Don’t Know Why / Latina Anónima 224

Lessons Learned from an Assistant Professor / Gloria Holguían Cuádraz 227

Don’t You Like Being in the University? / Latina Anónima 229

Temporary Latina / Ruth Behar 231

Dispelling the Sombras, Grito mi nombre con rayos de luz / Inés Hernández Avila 238

Biting Through / Latina Anónima 245

Sand from Varadero Beach / Ruth Behar 247

Speaking Among Friends: Whose Empowerment, Whose Resistance? / Luz del Alba Acevedo 250

III. The Body Re/members 263

Reading the Body / Norma E. Cantú 264

Missing Body / Caridad Souza 266

Malabareando/Juggling / Liza Fiol-Matta 269

Migraine/Jacqueca / Norma E. Cantú 271

The Wart / Daisy Cocco de Filippis 273

Why My Ears Aren't Pierced / Ruth Behar 275

Night Terrors / Latina Anónima 277

La Princesa / Latina Anónima 286

Forced by Circumstance / Norma Alarcón 289

Let Me Sleep / Latina Anónima 291

Depression / Mirtha N. Quintanales 293

Desde el Diván: Testimonios from the Couch / Yvette Giselle Flores-Ortiz 294

Telling to Live: Devoro la Mentira, Resucitando Mi Ser / Inés Hernández Avila 298

IV. Passion, Desires, and Celebrations 303

Shameless Desire / Aurora Levins Morales 305

La Cosa / Ruth Behar 307

Boleros / Eliana Rivero 309

A Working-Class Bruja’s Fears and Desires / Norma E. Cantú 314

Aún / Yvette Gisele Flores-Ortiz 318

The Names I Used to Call Your/The Names I Do Call You / Eliana Rivero 319

Plátanos and Palms / Rina Benmayor 321

Three Penny Opera or Eve’s Symphony in B Minor / Daisy Cocco de Filippis 323

Descubrimiento(s) / Celia Alvarez 327

Entre Nosotras / Latina Anónima 331

Pisco and Cranberry / Eliana Rivero 334

De lo que es Amor; de lo que es Vida / Inés Hernández Avila 336

Eating Mango / Liza Fiol-Matta 344

Everyday Grace / Mirtha N. Quintanales 345

Tenemos que Swguir Luchando / Patricia Zavella 348

Select Bibliography 357

About the Authors 373
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2002 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award

Winner, 2004 Critics’ Choice Award, American Educational Studies Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2765-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2755-4
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