Desveladas: A Fotonovela

ANGIE CRUZ:  Thank you, Laura Pegram, for all your hard work and generosity, and to all the Kweli writers for sharing the stage with us and those here at the New York Times building for donating this beautiful space.

I am honored to introduce the collective that makes up Desveladas. Before I do that I would like to revisit Audre Lourde’s essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.”

Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a commitment to language, and to the power of language and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us. In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding.

We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our needs for language and definition. And while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.

The fact that we are here and that I speak not these words, is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us. For it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence, and there are so many silences to be broken.

In that spirit, I celebrate these women because their project Desveladas, and the work they do in their lives to break the silences around the border and borders we inhabit, to complicate the narratives we carry and to disrupt our notions of how to talk about it, is not easy. With that said, these panels (slides) that you are looking at are part of the fotonovela in progress and they are raw and still in development. But they are also an invitation to everyone who is here and witnessing them, as they process, to be part of their conversation about the border.

NELLY ROSARIO:  We live in an instagram age and we want to find other ways to engage text and the image. Macarena is a journalist, I'm a fiction writer and Sheila is a poet. I think that this sort of intragenre conversation is really important. But there is also the larger conversation, an international conversation, about this whole question of borders. We live in a world that is increasingly violent and sectarian and there are constant divisions. But I feel that it is at that line, at the border, where people are most willing to exchange. It's funny because the line is supposed to define a separation, but at the line is where people are most ambiguous. So that is one of the things we also want to explore in this fotonovela. Tonight I am reading from a novel in progress. What I really want to mediate on is the content of this scene. It is actually inspired by Humpty Dumpty and this slide is from Lewis Carroll's Looking Glass. I really want to think about the edge or the border as a consistent state of being as opposed to it being a sort of marginal state of being. I think we all live on borders, all of us are on borders of something and our job is to make that translation, whatever it is, whether we're on ethnic borders, racial borders, neighborhood borders, artistic borders. We are all bordering on something and I find that really fascinating and I think that this is what Macarena, Sheila and I are always in conversation about. So I want to think about figurative and literal borders. This piece is part of my novel in progress. It's a very dark piece. I'll set it up for you. It's two doctors. They're a couple. They rehab'd a crack house in Brooklyn into a clinic and they're going through a time of crisis.  Most of the scene is from the point of view of the wife, and then the second part which, is the last part, is short, is from the point of view of her daughter who eventually becomes a doctor. 

Novel excerpt (first part) 

So this is your grand rebuttal," I said. "To make me a goddamn widow."

My husband was hanging a few feet from the roof ledge and I could only see his fingers. They were clamped around the lip of an ivy planter that ran the length of our roof. Not clamped tight enough though I saw. For sure his feet had to planted on the protruding bay window of the attic below. For sure. Still the situation was not undangerous. As usual, his infernal silence made my voice rise like a vulture riding thermal winds. Answer me, I shouted, and had to lean further over the roof ledge for a better look at this death-do-us part of our marriage. The planter obscured his face, but beyond the wilted ivys I could see sweat glittering on his bald spot. 

Sinvergüenza, I said, counting on my shaky certainty that he had solid footing. "In your next life, be a little discreet and overdose on castor oil. Just be sure to leave me enough toilet paper on your way out." 

Shit. Crisis intervention is not my strength. Neither is forgive forget. We argued last night. Our usual one ways, the nag and the deaf mute. I sent him to hell and promptly took my pillow to the attic. There I could only sleep up to my sixth dream. I was tossing and turning into a seventh when an apocalyptic light in the room woke me. Apocalyptic because the window of the attic faces west. A thump shook the upper quadrant of the bay window, followed by a glimpse of shadow. The world's ending for sure, I thought, if our carrier pigeons are flying into glass too.  And then I caught a glimpse of familiar boots, the duck tape ones I told Tomas countless times are unbecoming of a respectable doctor. Of anyone.