- ¡Chicana Power! Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement by Maylei Blackwell, and: Bridging: How Gloria Anzaldúa’s Life and Work Transformed Our Own by AnaLouise Keating and Gloria González-López
Maylei Blackwell’s !Chicana Power!, the first book-length study of Chicanas in the Chicano movement, uses oral history and archival research to tell the compelling story of Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, a group that emerged in the late 1960s in response to “the repudiation of women’s leadership and the marginalization of women’s issues in the Chicano student movement” (2). Blackwell’s focus is two-fold. First, she recounts the active ways that Las Hijas responded to the often severe discrimination they faced from male activists; these included concrete actions (publishing one of the first Chicana feminist newspapers, organizing a national meeting of Chicanas, and community involvement) and the development of an early analysis of the interrelated nature of gender, racial, sexual, and class power. Second, Blackwell interweaves her own analysis of how the story of Las Hijas “transforms the ways we understand these historical narratives and the political nature of the knowledge practices that produce them” (3). Thus, the politics of knowledge production is as central to the book as Las Hijas themselves. Informed by Foucault and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Blackwell underscores the stakes involved in interrogating exclusionary historical narratives, arguing that they do not “merely represent historical realities but help to produce those realities by enforcing the boundaries of legitimate political memory and the subjectivities they authorize” (11).
One of the book’s many strengths is Blackwell’s decision to foreground the voices of the organization’s former members, allowing their firsthand accounts to communicate how their struggles over gender and sexuality within the movement ultimately gave rise to the “multifaceted vision of liberation” they created, which, as Blackwell argues, resulted in the production of “a new Chicana political identity” (1). The book also provides an excellent analysis of the role played by sexual politics in the movement and details the painful divisions that marred the extraordinary 1971 national meeting of Chicanas (Conferencia de Mujeres por la Raza), shedding light on the “political fault lines of early Chicana feminism” (161). Finally, Blackwell develops a number of theoretical concepts, chief among which is her notion of “retrofitted memory,” her name for the historicizing strategies Las Hijas used to counter the [End Page 434] erasure of Chicana political subjectivities from the movement. !Chicana Power! is a significant contribution to the ongoing process of historicizing Chicana feminist consciousness and furthers the work of scholars such as Emma Pérez, who have problematized traditional historio-graphical practices in Chicana/o studies contexts.
In their introduction to Bridging, a volume of essays honoring the life and work of Gloria Anzaldúa, AnaLouise Keating and Gloria Gónzalez-López explain that the impetus for the volume was the concern that Anzaldúa’s untimely death in 2004 would cause her intellectual legacy to suffer, especially with respect to her more radical later work. In their effort to circumvent this problem, they asked their contributors to engage, among other issues, “future directions to consider as we build on Anzaldúa’s intellectual inheritance” and to follow one of Anzaldúa’s key critical tenets of “risking the personal,” by which they mean using self-disclosure and self-reflection as the foundation for their essays (6, 1). Most of the contributors follow this injunction as they reflect on Anzaldúa’s importance. Some, especially in part 1, do not move beyond such reflections, choosing to focus on the deep pain that they continue to feel at Anzaldúa’s death. These pieces are moving tributes for a scholar who changed so many lives. However, the contributions that best fulfill the aims elaborated by the editors are those that...