Most of my tias are in Mexico and I refuse to go to church until the pope is a woman. So I go to readings to find family and spirit – to find sabiduría and a sense of purpose.

Cherríe Moraga read from the 35th anniversary edition of This Bridge called my Back on Oct. 5th at DePaul.

She talked about how some of the original contributors have passed on early. Some violently. Some due to cancer and other ailments that affect our communities disproportionately. This life as a woman of color, a feminist of color, takes its toll, she said. Theory in the flesh leaves it’s mark.

I’m not yet 30 and the acid in my stomach is eating away at my throat. A metaphor in the flesh for all the things I haven’t said. I feel it taking its toll on me. Is it taking it’s toll on you, hermana?

And so malhablada que soy and that I am sometimes ashamed to be, I take inspiration from her when she says to use my roughest language. It’s the stuff they can’t appropriate, put on t-shirts, or turn into rhetoric she said. And the truth is dirty. It’s the stuff they don’t want to see.

And if it isn’t hard, you’re not doing it right, she said of the most difficult essay for her to write, “La Güera” where she compares the oppression she suffered as a lesbian to the oppression her mother suffered as a dark skinned Mexican woman. She said vomited the entire time she wrote it.

And those of you who are writers can recognize those terrifying visceral moments in your own truths embodied. The stories building in you. The anxiety that haunts you for days before and after you’ve written something that leaves you feeling exposed. The inopportune moments of sobbing when you’ve hit on something honest.

No one else can define your courage for you, Cherríe Moraga said. No one. But seeing women like her being brave, being unapologetically themselves, can help us find the courage we need to live out all our dangerous truths, to make the best use of our time in this flesh.

After all these years, that has always been the power of This Bridge Called My Back, the Xicana bible. And you see it gathered in the room full of women at the reading. Women of all backgrounds, young, old and in between.

I leave the reading with a lump in my throat – all my truths bubbling to get out.

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