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The girls our mothers still warn us about

Caleb Rainey | Out on the Page

“Chicana” is an identity that was reclaimed during the 1960s and ’70s, when the political organizing of Americans of Mexican descent began to gain real traction in the United States. The word seeks to foreground the indigenous ancestry of Mexican-Americans and refuses to privilege the European/Spanish ancestry instead.

The Chicano movement of the ’60s and ’70s struggled for issues like quality education, access to healthcare, immigration reform, worker’s rights, and other issues specific to the Chicano experience in the U.S. I say Chicano experience here because the specific needs of Chicanas and LGBT Chicano/as often went unacknowledged in this otherwise vibrant resistance movement.Chicana-Lesbians-1

Because of these exclusions, as well as the racism of the women’s and LGBT movements, Chicanas and LGBT Chicana/os began building their own independent movements. Out of these resistance struggles sprouted a kind of Chicana literary renaissance and many of the most prominent voices of the time were Chicana lesbians.

Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa were certainly the most well known voices of the time, but their voices were joined by Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Emma Pérez, and Carla Trujillo, among others. These voices were critical in shedding light on the issues faced by Chicana lesbians, a group of women often ignored and sometimes even considered mythical.

These brave lesbian writers created a space for Chicana lesbians to be able to see themselves reflected positively in art and literature and they created a community.

On March 21, the San Diego Multicultural LGBT Literary Foundation will partner with the Women’s Museum of California to celebrate this cultural legacy of art and resistance. Carla Trujillo, one of these early Chicana lesbian voices, will read alongside one of the heirs to and sustainers of this vibrant literary landscape. Trujillo’s groundbreaking anthology, “Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About,” also served as the inspiration for the title of this event.

Luna Lemus’ contributions to Chicana lesbian literature continues the conversations started in the ’70s and ’80s, and considers issues still facing Chicana lesbians in the 21st century. These two come together in an intergenerational dialogue that highlights Chicana lesbian contributions to arts and literature.

Trujillo will be reading from her novel “What Night Brings,” which follows the young narrator, Marcy Cruz, as she struggles with her budding lesbianism in a world where her relationship to her church and her family make it impossible to imagine her life as a lesbian.

Luna Lemus, on the other hand, offers us the story of Leticia Marisol Estrella Torez, a young lesbian growing up between L.A.’s hipster scene and her more traditional upbringing. While both Felicia and Leticia in some ways benefitted from the activism of their Chicana lesbian foremothers, they still inherited a world that remained largely hostile to their existence.

“Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Still Warn Us About” seeks to continue the fight for a world in where Chicana lesbians not only survive, but thrive.

In addition to the readings of Trujillo and Lemus, “Chicana Lesbians” will also feature a queer Chicana book fair that seeks to broaden understanding of and familiarity with Chicana lesbian contributions to arts and literature.

The event will be held Friday, March 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Women’s Museum of California, located at 2730 Historic Decatur Rd., Barracks 16, in Liberty Station.

Tickets are only $10 and are expected to sell out quickly, as there is limited space. Special ticket prices exist for those with a limited income. For more information, visit womensmuseumca.org, call 619-233-7963, or stop by the museum.

As a supplement to this exciting event, the San Diego Multicultural LGBT Literary Foundation will be focusing our monthly ReadOut Meet-up on Luna Lemus’ “Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties.” The ReadOut Meet-up meets once a month to discuss the authors that the Foundation brings to San Diego and their books. Join us to discuss this amazing author and her work before she comes to San Diego!

The group meets Saturday, March 15 from 5 – 6 p.m. at The San Diego LGBT Center’s library. The Center is located at 3909 Centre St., in Hillcrest. For more information on the ReadOut program visit sdliteraryfoundation.org.

—Caleb Rainey recently graduated with his master’s degree in cultural studies. He is a long-time social justice enthusiast and the founder and executive director of the San Diego Multicultural LGBT Literary Foundation. Contact him at sdmulticulturallgbtlit@gmail.com.

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