My whole life people have tried to tell me who I am or who I’m supposed to be. My whole life people have tried to measure my proximity to whiteness, always asking, WHAT ARE YOU?

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-02-11 04:16Z by Steven

I’m Afro-Boricua. I’m biracial—my mother is white and my father is black, both Puerto Rican. Sometimes people don’t know that I’m black, but I’m black. I was raised in a black family, by my father and grandmother, both unapologetically black and unapologetically Boricua. My sister and I look brown, and our brother looks white. Our white grandmother was racist and threw around the n-word even when referring to us, me and my sister, her grandchildren. She made us feel like we were not part of her white family. But my brother, with his blond hair and his blue eyes, she loved to claim.

My whole life people have tried to tell me who I am or who I’m supposed to be. My whole life people have tried to measure my proximity to whiteness, always asking, What are you?

Jaquira Díaz, “You Do Not Belong Here,” KR Online: Kenyon Review, September 2017.

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You Do Not Belong Here

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2018-01-30 15:56Z by Steven

You Do Not Belong Here

KR Online
Kenyon Review
September 2017

Jaquira Díaz
Gambier, Ohio
June 2017

A few years ago, during a summer in Puerto Rico, I went back to my old neighborhood, El Caserío Padre Rivera. When I was a girl, El Caserío, one of the island’s government housing projects, was a world of men, of violence. A world that at times wasn’t safe for women or girls. There were shootouts in the streets, fourteen-year-old boys carrying guns as they rode their bikes to the candy store just outside the walls. We watched a guy get stabbed right in front of our building once, watched the cops come in and raid places for drugs and guns. Outsiders were not welcome. Outsiders meant trouble.

What you didn’t know unless you lived there, unless you spent time there, was that most people in El Caserío were just trying to raise their families in peace, like anywhere else. The neighbors kept an eye on all the kids, fed them, took them to school, took them trick-or-treating on Halloween. All over the neighborhood, people told stories. El Caserío was where I learned about danger and violence and death, but it was also where I learned about community, where I learned to love stories, to imagine them, to dream. And it’s a place I love fiercely.

That summer, I drove into El Caserío to look at our old apartment, my first elementary school, the basketball courts where my father taught me to shoot hoops. I’d been there less than five minutes when a boy on a bike approached the car, motioned for me to roll down my window.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Just visiting,” I said. “I was born here.”

He kept his hands on the handlebars, looked inside the car for a while, then gave me directions to the nearest exit, even though I hadn’t asked for them. He couldn’t have been more than sixteen.

“I know my way around,” I said. “I used to live here.”

“You do not belong here,” he said, then pedaled away, disappearing around the corner…

Read the entire article here.

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Ai Means Love

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2013-03-29 18:01Z by Steven

Ai Means Love

The Kenyon Review

Tamiko Beyer

Last week, the poet Ai passed away, unexpectedly. She was one of the first poets I read when I started studying poetry, and I have always admired the fierce bravery of her work.

From her poems, I learned about the poetic possibilities of the persona. I learned from the way she inhabited multiple voices with compassion and clarity, how she explored deep and often uncomfortable human truths. She did not turn away; she compelled us not to turn away.

I found out about her death, as I did Lucille Clifton’s recent passing, from a post on Facebook. But on the whole, the poetry world seems to have taken little notice.

This lack of discussion and celebration of Ai’s work is striking, especially compared to the outpouring that came after Clifton’s death.

I wonder if it has something to do with Ai’s insistence on the integrity of her multiracial identity. Identifying as Japanese, Choctaw-Chickasaw, Black, Irish, Southern Cheyenne, and Comanche, she refused to align herself with just one part of her racial identity. This put her on perpetual borderlands of identity politics, and she knew it:

“I wish I could say that race isn’t important. But it is. More than ever, it is a medium of exchange, the coin of the realm with which one buys one’s share of jobs and social position. This is a fact which I have faced and must ultimately transcend.” – (from

Indeed, the Asian American poetry community did not claim her as one of our own. I once came across a mimeographed collection of Asian American women’s writing printed in the Bay Area in the late 70’s or early 80’s. One article listed all the Asian American women writers active at that that time, and I remember that Ai was included on the list, but with a kind of reluctance. Because she did not specifically address Asian-American themes, there was a question as to whether or not she could be called an Asian American poet. (If I remember correctly, there was a similar discussion in the article about Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge and her work.)…

Read the entire article here.

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