An uneven mix of essays from third-wave feminists of color.
“What is it about the word ‘feminism’ that has encouraged women of color to stand apart from it?” queries one contributor. Feeling that the topic of race has been given short shrift in women’s studies (and, conversely, that the study of gender is ignored in ethnic studies), these young essayists tackle the ways in which race, class, and gender intersect and define their lives. Their voices are distinct (the writers identify as Puerto Rican, Mexican-American, Nigerian, and Sri Lankan, among other ethnicities), and the pieces cover a wide territory. Taigi Smith offers a wry look at neighborhood regentrification: she resents the practice on her childhood block in San Francisco’s Mission District, but is grateful that her current Brooklyn neighborhood is undergoing the process. Activist Stella Luna describes how her HIV-positive status helped transform her from a directionless young woman into a health-care advocate. (When asked if she would choose to be cured or to retain the strength, compassion, and empowerment she’s acquired since being diagnosed with the disease, Luna admits she would chose to remain as she is.) Most of the essayists agree that the personal is political; hence the tales of eating disorders, sexual harassment, rape, and abortion. The two strongest sections focus on the inclination of these young women to see their mothers as practicing feminists—even though their mothers might reject the label—and on the process of negotiating traditions. These women construct a different feminism, one that allows them to retain their culture and customs, as well as question traditional gender roles.
There’s an unfortunate cringe factor in some sloppy prose (“She likes long walks in the park and vanilla cookie-dough ice-cream from Häagen-Dazs and gets exhilarated from tap-dancing at fast speeds”), but trenchant perspectives are sprinkled throughout.