Book Review—Rebeldes: A Proyecto Latina Anthology

I love to write. Poetry and essays mostly, but it can be hard to find the time—or the inspiration. I don’t know about other people, but I don’t write well in isolation. Sure, I can sit alone at a cafe or in my chonies in my living room chugging coffee and banging out some sick lines, but without sharing it with others or having others share their work with me, I get discouraged. I need to hear other people’s stories. Specifically, it helps me to hear the voices of other Latino writers. Hearing other people sharing their poems or stories full of English, Spanish, or Spanglish is a recuperative experience. It heals me from the ignorance of some in the literary community—like having to deal with people who say things like “Why would you want to write something not everyone can understand? You should add a glossary.”

(Shut up, guy named Fritz from a poetry class I still get mad about. You suck.)

Community itself is healing and inspiring and that’s what I really love about Rebeldes: A Proyecto Latina Anthology. I work two jobs and run a non-profit, so I can’t always make it out to events, but this book is like carrying a bunch of hilarious and talented women in my purse. Okay, that came out sounding a little creepy, but what I mean is that the sense of community is really strong in this book. It feels really empowering and that is its goal. It aims to create a space where Latinas can break through all of society’s messages telling us to stand down, and instead rebel.

The book is full of amazing poems, prose pieces, excerpts from larger works, drama, reflections on life and even art. Some pieces like “Hay que morir, para vivir” by Claudia Rosa Silva-Hernandez or “Gargoyles” by Stephanie Diaz Reppen will stop you in your tracks and make you hold a hand to your heart. Other pieces like “poem for los hermanos” by Coya Paz and “Peroxide” by Desiree T. Castro will make you reminisce on your own days as an impressionable young teenager. “Of Pulque, Pilgrimages, and Goddesses” by Diana Pando and “Coal, Coahuila, Chicago” by Irasema Gonzalez will make you want to get off the couch and dig up your own history. The anthology’s editor, Paloma Martinez Cruz did an amazing job collecting all these powerful voices. Her intro sets the tone by asking the reader–who are you to write a perfect poem? Nobody’s perfect–not even the woman in Martinez-Cruz’s piece “Celeste Duran,” who doesn’t fart.

And oh, you will laugh. The book is also full of chismes, each inspiring you to share your own wild truths. My favorite chisme is the one that says: “I’m only keeping my old vibrators b/c I don’t know how to recycle them. Any tips?” (Actually yes, anonymous hermana. I just found out about this place.)

Most of all, whether you’re a writer or not, this book will make you want to tell your stories in “primera voz,” as Diana Pando says in the book’s forward. Drawing on the book cover’s imagery of a bird woman with two nestlings in her skirt, I’d say this book is a collection of chirping pajaritos inspiring you to join in the song. If others tell us they don’t want to hear us sing, well then, that just makes it a rebel song.

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