There are several narratives at work here: one of gender identity, the feminist body; a second of immigration and national body; a third of multi-linguality and the fragmented tongue; and finally the images constructing their own narrative of collage and erasure, a body of memory half-erased. This is a complex, surprising, astonishing, engaging work. Clearly rooted in contemporary feminism, there is a scary-sharp intellect at work here that makes the book almost a little intimidating. Like you know there’s a million subtexts, and a million different ways to read every piece, and a million different theories and philosophies and criticisms that are underpinning the work. This is both exciting and terrifying as a reader, or at least, for this reader.
Though there are several tricks she uses that lead to an immediate opening of language: the titular gesture of phonetic misunderstandings of works; alienating gestures of code switching; expansiveness; and inarticulability. Those are comforting because they’re easily recognizable moments of textual complexity. What’s exhilarating is the sense that there is so much more going on in the text, everywhere, that it would take dozens of reads and a firm grasp of all the philosophy and linguistics and feminist theory she’s ever read to fully unpack.
Ok, so it’s a little intimidating, but that isn’t a problem for me. It invites the kind of deep, close reading I enjoy most, and promises to yield and resist in the most pleasurable, discomfiting of ways. For some signposts indicating the intertextuality of this work, check out the fabulous review of it in HTML giant. And an interview with Jennifer.
Hybridity is an essential tool in the work – and hybridity that is far more about collision and rupture than containment. Images speak in ways that English, Spanish, and Spanglish can’t. Words become images. Red threat becomes a kind of writing. This is a work of many voices, just as women are composed of many influences, and these are appropriated and stitched on, opened up and pulled out, examined, and ultimately possessed by the author.