Gloria Anzaldúa began to menstruate when she was three months old. This may seem odd, but for Anzaldúa it isn’t. All of her life she has straddled the transitions by which most of us define our lives: childhood to adulthood, innocence to sexual awareness, ignorance to wisdom. The child of sharecroppers in South Texas, Anzaldúa—a person of color, a woman, sexually ambiguous, poor, uneducated as a child, unredeemable—never fit into easy categories. Ambitious and aided by a prodigious intellect, she became an eminent epistemologist, able to approach ideas freely, without regard for taboos.
Interviews/Entrevistas covers the years 1982 to 1999. The conversations collected in it are tough going. Since they took place over a period of time, the reader can see how Anzaldúa’s ideas evolved into a coherent whole. She herself likens these changes to stations along a train route: our lives are the train itself, and the stations are the beliefs we hold and the people we take ourselves to be at any given time. Some of the book’s sections are repetitive, though, and others are too obscure for an outsider to comprehend; they would have benefited from more rigorous editing.
Anzaldúa was at home in virtual reality long before the dotcoms showed up. To her character Andrea, in the story “El Paisano Is a Bird of Good Omen,” the hard roundness of the mesquite post seems an appendage of herself, a fifth limb, “one that’s also part of the corral, the corral that’s part of the land.” She feels her body flowing from one post to another until it, too, encircles what the corral encircles. She also knows what it means to be everywhere at once and nowhere at all, every sense exaggerated and shared with the beings around her. Anzaldúa calls this feeling “the multiple Glorias” and claims that this term came to her in 1975 while she was “tripping on mushrooms” and preparing to put her journals into book form. “It was going to be [End Page 172] a writing of convergence,” she says. “The sexual, the mental, the emotional, the psychic, the supernatural—you know, the world of the spirits—the unconscious. I gave it a name. I called it the ‘Gloria Multiplex,’ which means ‘the multiple Glorias,’ because I thought I was multiple.”
This ability to be many entities made Anzaldúa stronger, so she embarked on a specific task in life: to help others (re)create themselves as well. She calls this process hacer caras—making face, or personalities. Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color, an anthology edited by Anzaldúa, includes work by Audre Lorde, Joy Harjo, Norma Alarcón, and others. While a graduate student, Anzaldúa had taught a class called “La Mujer Chicana,” for which there was no text. In 1979, in California, she took a writing workshop with Merlin Stone, who convinced her that she could put together her first anthology, which became This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, coedited with Cherríe Moraga.
Anzaldúa first worked as a teacher, following the migrant children to Indiana and acting as their liaison, before returning to Texas to teach and begin a Ph.D. Frustrated by a cold reaction to her doctoral proposal, she moved to California to continue her studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Again, she found that academe could not contain her ideas and turned full-time to writing and teaching workshops on communicating and bridging differences. However, she stayed in Santa Cruz, a place she still calls home.
The late 1970s were a crucial time for Anzaldúa. She joined the Feminist Writers Guild, whose membership she described as “white lesbians,” and was active in Chicana politics, in which arena most of the women were straight. This divide was one impetus for carving out the body of thought on which Anzaldúa has spent so much time, concerning our definitions of self as...