Thursday, February 22, 2007

Out of the Confessional, Demetria Martinez Steps into the Light

Confessions of Berlitz Tape Chicana
by Demetria Martínez

University of Oklahoma Press, 2005
ISBN: 978-0-8061-3722-3
ISBN(10): 0-8061-3722-3

“We’re everywhere, and it’s time to come out of the closet: I speak of the tongue-tied generation, buyers of books with titles like Master Spanish in Ten Minutes a Day while You Nap. . . . We grew up listening to the language—usually in the kitchens of extended family—but we answered back mostly in English.”

Demetria Martínez wields her trademark blend of humor and irony to give voice to her own “tongue-tied generation” in this notable series of essays, revealing her deeply personal views of the world. Martínez breaks down the barriers between prayer and action, between the border denizen and the citizen of the world, and between patriarchal religion and the Divine Mother. She explores her identity as a woman who has within her the “blood of the conquered and the conqueror,” and who must daily contend with yet a third world—white America. (from the publisher)


This is a deceptively thin volume, but don't let the size mislead you. Martínez demonstrates both a depth of feeling and a fine mind at work. Why I mention this at all is that very often, women's writing is described as 'heart-felt,' ignoring the intellectual foundation at work. Confessions demonstrates how the two are meshed together to produce a must-read social commentary and memoir.

In Confessions, Martínez offers laser beam observations on a variety of topics: identity, female beauty, the fear of violence, the need for spirituality, with a clarity, directness, and a sense of groundedness that is compelling and intimate.

Early in the book, in an essay entitled, Lines in the Sand, on the real meaning of never finding the right shade of makeup, Martínez deftly lays bare the insidious everyday way in which Latinas find themselves forced to look in a distorted mirror; how much the world needs us to embrace the beauty already there, to shift our energy away from the beauty trap in order to remake the world.

In A Call To Arms, Martínez writes about the fantasy of owning a gun, of knowing and agreeing with all the anti-gun politics, but owning that deep and naked need to feel impervious in a world where women's physical safety is always in question.

Martinez speaks truth to power, and her essay, Night, shows us the inner workings of her psyche and spirit, as she challenges the reader to take a long, raw look at the Iraqi invasion, and the cost of silence in the face of the war.

In Birth Day, Martínez also is forthcoming about her manic depression, about its tolls on her life, but also its blessings. In a critique of the 'romance' of mental illness, she writes that she takes her meds, choosing a place of more balance, instead of dis-ease. But she also has this to say:

"...I realize that my calling--the human calling, is to embody the light in my life, especially when I cannot see it. And to to try to embody it my my writing as well."

Such light, such light indeed.


Demetria Martinez is an author, activist, lecturer and columnist. Her autobiographical essays, Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana (Univ. of Oklahoma Press), winner of the 2006 International Latino Book Award in the category of Best Biography, is now out. Her books include the widely translated novel, Mother Tongue (Ballantine), winner of a Western States Book Award for Fiction, and two books of poetry, Breathing Between the Lines and The Devil’s Workshop (Univ. of Arizona Press). (Martinez reads a sampling of poems from Breathing Between the Lines on her new CD, with music by Devon Hall.) She writes a column for the National Catholic Reporter, an independent progressive newsweekly. She currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent! Must buy book now!