This book made my own city take on new contours. Before I encountered Janice Lobo Sapigao's work, I did not know about the hazardous conditions that aThis book made my own city take on new contours. Before I encountered Janice Lobo Sapigao's work, I did not know about the hazardous conditions that assembly line workers face in Silicon Valley, many of whom are immigrant women. I'm glad Janice is bringing their stories and voices to the fore, so that we are conscious of them today, and they don't fall prey to erasure tomorrow. An homage to the author's mother, these poems are personal and documentary. She makes full use of the page in fancy ways; in one poem, a long vertical sentence divides stanzas into two columns, standing in for a freeway. I once heard someone describe this project as astonishing, and I agree! I read this in one long sitting!...more
Hailed as an important work of Chicanx Lit, this book takes place in the famed Alviso ghost town called Drawbridge. It chronicles the plight of farmwoHailed as an important work of Chicanx Lit, this book takes place in the famed Alviso ghost town called Drawbridge. It chronicles the plight of farmworkers in local orchards and fields. As I researched Drawbridge's history, I found no evidence of the newspaper, high school, or communities Barrio references. I even emailed an employee of the wildlife refuge where the town's remains sink into the marshland; she wrote Drawbridge was "mostly a vacation place for hunters and anglers, and there were no schools there." Other research yielded that by 1969 Drawbridge was almost deserted. So, I presume, the book is set in a fictionalized real place for symbolic or poetic purposes, maybe to signal that the mistreatment of immigrants and laborers ought to be abandoned like a ghost town. The book is deeply rooted in place and felt documentarian in tone; it describes street names and rivers and other markers from real San Jose. And yet, there's no way of knowing which details are "true" vs "symbolic." Whether or not this matters is something I'm still grappling with as a reader. I also was weirded out to find that Barrio was not himself Chicano; his parents were from Spain. Stylistically this book was uneven for me; I would describe it as pretty but sloppy. I found Barrio's use of dialect (for both white and Brown characters) unfortunate; sometimes they spoke like cartoon characters....more
The story is hard to describe but I'll attempt it: two young women have synchronous outbursts in which they lash out at and escape the men who oppressThe story is hard to describe but I'll attempt it: two young women have synchronous outbursts in which they lash out at and escape the men who oppress them (2 fathers / 1 husband / a lineage of others on an old family tree). It is as if they are moved by some magic that links girls at their breaking points. Next, one girl captures the other but it is consensual. "I've always wanted to be kidnapped," she says. "It's like being rescued." They retreat to a remote ramshackle dwelling in the woods and the tale moves forward from there.
I enjoyed the eerie, immersive, and atmospheric vibe of this book. The prose, to me, is sparkling like shattered glass. In the prologue, the author describes how she reentered PJ Harvey's Rid of Me album, which she listened to repeatedly as a "swoony daydreamy teenager," and allowed narratives to emerge and characters to take on contours. The book is not about the album, she says, but because of it. I have never listened to this album in full, and I can't comment on how differently I'd feel if this was a record I knew inside out. There are two chapters named for songs I know by heart, thanks to late 90s mixtape culture, but my own relationship to those songs did not get in the way of the author's story....more