Review: Sarah Rafael García and mónica teresa ortiz, Eds. pariahs. writing from outside the margins. Nacogdoches, Texas: Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2016.
The murders of 300 people by U.S. Army marauders, at Wounded Knee in 1890, stands as the bloodiest mass shooting in U.S. history. Corporate news and lazy writers drool all over themselves to anoint the shooting deaths this month of 50 people in Orlando as “worst” because ugly news sells advertising, but more so because indigenous gente were pariahs, easy to overlook and deliberately devalued.
Our country is good at killing, whether 300 defenseless Indians targeted by a company of trained soldiers, or 50 happy partiers slaughtered by a lone killer brandishing a lethally efficient, easily-obtained gun.
Our culture is just as efficient killing spirits, using a pernicious misanthropy to make pariahs of people. Out of hatred, unthinking ignorance creates a strategy of driving souls into Otherhood, isolation, forced anomie.
Nowadays, that soul-extinguishing power has begun to wane. The excluded, the Othered--the pariahs--have weapons to fight back, to armor themselves with hate-resistant shields of words, of art. And thus, ever-so-slowly, pariahs begin to emerge into the open, not merely as survivors, but winners.
It’s not overstatement to declare pariahs writing from outside the margins, edited by Sarah Rafael García and mónica teresa ortiz, is one of those weapons fighting back against hatred and exclusion. The collection exemplifies reason, emotion, determination. It offers its own unity and a way of winning the public ear, the hearts and souls of the good people among us.
It’s important to get a copy, to read it, to share pariahs writing from outside the margins with friends and family, to get it into libraries, so perfect and not-so-perfect strangers will find themselves, their friends, their familiars, in the pages. Here they are.
pariahs writing from outside the margins is a modest effort—only 96 pages of text interspersed with a handful of monochrome art. You’ll read it in one sitting. Then you’ll think about what you’ve seen, people you know. And you’ll read it again, this time stopping at a page or paragraph, one of Rax’ drawings, or re-reading a poem or story that moved you. A lot of them will move you, no matter who you think you are.
You’ll compare two essays, first, editor Sarah R. García’s emotionally wrought essay on the misery of living through an MFA program staffed by cretins and fatuous asses, then Reyes Ramirez’ more nuanced essay about his experience in a similarly spirit-killing MFA program and experiences with “famous” writers.
Garcia’s experience will make you instinctively angry at the big shot who responds to complaints about an all-white visiting writers roll, “I don’t see color, I only see writers.” Then you’ll nod approval at Ramirez’ analytic examination of the result of blindly exclusionary literary politics:
If young writers aren’t being given access to successful writers of color (if they are, they are taught in a way acceptable to white, mainstream standards) or taught to them as part of the American canon, then how can writers of color ever feel welcome to participating in that conversation with their writing? By extension, can white writers identify with and respect writers of color if they are barely forced to read them?
The raison d’etre of a collection like pariahs is to explain the ways of exclusion to the excluders, but also to share the experiences of the excluded with others like them, to comfort, assure you are not alone, don’t give in and don’t give up.
Like the happa girl who doesn’t look Korean and catches shit for it. She observes, in a wondrous prose-poem painting the rainbow colors of discrimination, experiences like this:
“I dated this Asian chick once, but she was kinda uptight. You know those Asian girls,” he
“I’m Asian,” the woman says.
“No you’re not,” he says, smiling. “You’re kidding, right?”
A secret witness, sometimes she appears white.
Like the transitioning man who attracts the desire of a local woman. They banter and enjoy one another’s company until a moment of truth, of negation, of Othering:
I pulled away. “Listen,” I said, “I’m not like other guys.” I don’t know what came over
me. I just wanted to be seen, what’s the matter with that?
“I wasn’t born a man.”
There, I’d said it. The suit fell off, and underneath stood a transexual––the mythic creature
of perversion, or the self-made man?
“I don’t know what that means,” she said.
“I was born a girl.”
“I know,” I said laughing and shaking my head, but when I looked back up at her, she
“You’re a liar.” She buttoned her pants and backed off the porch.
“Josie,” I said, my heart raced, “it’s weird for me too, ok?”
“I was...does that make me...you tricked me.” She sneered.
Like the transitioning woman whose one-night stand was never more than that, but lived a magic moment of possibility, never to be forgotten:
He came from Georgia and I called him my sweet Georgia peach; but I never saw him
again. I still go back to that picture saved on my laptop. I now see it as a moment of resistance,
as a moment he couldn’t resist me. With this he became my nostalgia, and I can only assume, I
perhaps became his.
Kismet, exactly as if he had been born he, like she she. But we’re not there yet
Every story and poem García and ortiz selected for pariahs serves to remind the reader that Othering wreaks horrible consequences on both sides of the divide, that there’s an individual behind that public face who is genuine, that as a society our understanding of identity and sexuality remains a one-sided equation.
Too often people kill what they do not understand. People kill because they hate, and hate because they don’t know the place of many people’s heart. Literature is an important avenue to open one’s eyes, heart, and mind to another’s spirit and soul, so we can understand one another, stop fearing, stop hating. Stop killing.
Sarah Rafael García and mónica teresa ortiz’ anthology pariahs writing from outside the margins —the lower case is intentional--is a necessary step on a path toward mutual understanding not just for writers but for us as humans. For those facts, pariahs writing from outside the margins, needs to be read widely.
Order copies of pariahs writing from outside the margins from your local independent bookseller. Ask your local library to acquire the title.
Texas Summit on Integrating Mexican American Studies June 18
La Bloga friend Juan Tejeda shares the following via email:
Statewide Summit on Integrating Mexican American Studies in Texas Schools to be held at the San Antonio College McAllister Auditorium on Saturday, June 18
For information or registration, contact Dr. Christopher Carmona at firstname.lastname@example.org or 956.854.1717.
National Association for Chicana & Chicano Studies Tejas Foco
Committee on Mexican American Studies Pre-K-12 presents a
Summit on Implementing Mexican American Studies in Texas Schools
Saturday, June 18, 2016
San Antonio College McAllister Auditorium
1300 San Pedro Ave, San Antonio, TX 78212
Opening Reception & Registration: 9:00–10:00am (McAllister Auditorium Foyer)
- Check in and registration with light breakfast.
General Assembly: 10:00–11:15am (McAllister Auditorium)
- Dr. Vela/SAC President, Welcome (10 mins)
- Dr. Christopher Carmona, Summit Goals/Thanks to sponsoring organizations & dignitaries (10 mins)
- Dr. Marie Miranda & Dr. June Pedraza present organizations from around the state
Introduction to Juan Tejeda (15 mins)
- Juan Tejeda, Orientation/Breakout Sessions (30 mins)
Press Conference: 11:15am-12pm (McAllister Auditorium)
- Speakers will give statements on goals of Summit & Textbook issue
- Lunch will be provided.
Working Breakout Sessions: 1:00–4:00pm (Classrooms)
- Information & Data Collection
- Elementary Pre-K-5th Grade
- Middle School
- High School
General Assembly: 4:00-5:30pm (McAllister Auditorium)
- Breakout Session Reports (10 minutes for each Breakout Session)
- Action Plans
- Closing, Dr. Christopher Carmona
Closing Reception: 5:30-6:30pm (McAllister Auditorium Foyer)
- Light Food & drinks will be provided.
Origins Journal Raising Funds
La Bloga friend, Dini Karasik, shares news of a push to make Origins a leading journal of important writing. Dini writes:
Dear Neighbors, Friends, Family & Origins Contributors,
I want to let you know that we've launched an Indiegogo campaign to jumpstart the next phase of our growth.
I hope you'll check it out! We've got some fun perks at a variety of giving levels. Many of you have supported us in the past with generous donations and I thank you!
I'd appreciate it so much if you'd support us today with a contribution and/or by spreading the word on social media.
Editor & Publisher
For more information, click here to visit the fundraising site.