areas is Gloria Anzaldua’s “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writ- ers,” originally written for Words in Our Pockets, the Feminist Writers’. Anzaldúa argues that all writing should be connected and personalized like letters. Both the content and the form of Anzaldúa’s letter make it a. 4 Gloria Anzaldua’s “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers,” one of the essays in the collection, was written over a period of five days.

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Having come of age in the sixties, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I experienced, mostly through television, those stormy and radical years of demonstrations, hippies, and revolutionary changes in our everyday life. My classmates and I marched on the streets of Buenos Aires in solidarity with the Civil Rights marchers, the anti-Vietnam War demonstrators. We shared their struggles as well as their triumphs, albeit from afar.

However, and paradoxically, nothing had prepared me for what I found in the U. My own, personal struggle to bring justice to an unjust world, to dismantle racism and sexism, to break down myths and stereotypes about Latinas and African-American women continues. These days my activism centers on the classroom and the printed page. Through my teaching of literature, I instruct my students to look beyond the surfaces, to question what they know and see and hear.

More importantly, I teach them that literature must be useful to their lives. At that time, I let it wash over me, I let it enter me. It was one of several texts we had to read for the class.

But soon, it became the only book that mattered. I read ih, then discussed it in class and, when school was over, took it with me on a long journey through Europe.

It became my friend and confidante during lonely nights in strange cities. They showed me that what I had been and was feeling and thinking was not strange, unusual, crazy.

They spoke for me and anzsldua me. Years later, in graduate school, I picked up This Bridge once again. It was for a class on African-American women writers and dialogics. And, when the professor spoke about Mae Henderson’s essay ” Speaking in Tongues,” 2 the proverbial light bulb flashed in my head.

Anzaldua’s Letter to 3rd World Women Writers | femtheory

Tongufs “Speaking in Tongues” 3 came rushing out, flooding my mind with the connections between Latinas and African-American women, so obvious that I hadn’t seen them until then, so obvious to me now that I don’t understand why more work on this is not done. A Letter to Third World Women Writers,” one of the essays in the collection, was written over a period of five days. The first section serves as an introduction to the problems that Third-World women writers face in the United States.

The third and final section offers readers a clear picture of the tasks at hand, the alternatives for the future. And, although dated, it is still relevant. Racism and sexism still live among us, still affect our daily lives. It is obviously a hypothetical conversation that spexking to become a reality. For too long women of color in the United States have stayed in their communities, fought the same battles separately, and suffered similar casualties on their own.

Yet, it is so transparently clear to me that we have much more in common than not. We are sisters in the struggle and analdua share the triumphs. Witness Anzaldua’s opening line: A Letter to 3rd World Tongue Writers: It presumes a reader—or more than one. By choosing the epistolary style, Third-World women writers are “able to draw on a form which places [their] vloria in a tradition associated with women, allows a feminine narrative voice, and establishes a bond and intimacy between women.


Similarly, Gloria Anzaldua imagines her companions while she writes: These women are at once external to Anzaldua because of their racial, social, historical, and speqking variations and internal to her, representing “a dialectic of identity [of] those aspects of self shared with others.

And then Anzaldua says: It is not easy writing this letter. It began as a poem, a long poem. I tried to turn it into an essay but the result was wooden, cold. How to approximate the intimacy and immediacy I want. A letter, of course….

In counterpoint to her need for “intimacy” and “immediacy,” Joyce calls academic discourse “distant” and “sterile. Anzaldua’s greeting as hermanas sisters declares one of the strongest bonds between women, second only to the bond between mothers and daughters. United by the dangers we face every day and unable to avoid them, tongkes struggle together, creating alliances, useful in future struggles.

Drawing the battle lines clearly, Anzaldua’s positioning allows all women writers of color to enter the conversation and, in the process, become visible. Unlikely to be friends of people in high literary places, the beginning writer woman of color is invisible both in the white male mainstream world and in the white women’s feminist world, though in the latter this is gradually changing. The lesbian of color is not only invisible, lgoria doesn’t even exist. Our speech, too, is inaudible.

She calls this speech “speaking in tongues” and prefigures Henderson’s trope for the simultaneous “plurality of voices” and “multiplicity of discourses” present in the writings of African-American women.

We speak in tongues like the outcast and the insane. When her attention turns to white women, her position seems more ambivalent since they enjoy certain privileges in racial and ethnic terms yet struggle because of their gender.

Speaking in Tongues (speech)

In the paragraphs that follow, Anzaldua addresses her teachers anzakdua did not allow her to speak her Spanish language, much less teach it, the language that reflects “our culture, our spirit.

Anzaldua’s indictment of the status quo continues in a poem that functions as a dialogue on three different levels: Tongjes convince us that we must cultivate art for art’s sake.

Simultaneously, however, Christian observes that theoretical and creative writing can serve as a political tool if they are rooted in practice, avoiding the pitfalls of elitism and exclusivity. By problematizing anzalxua theories that “do not take into account … that women are of many races and ethnic backgrounds,” theories that collapse all women of color into one single, monolithic category, ignoring distinctions, 15 Christian parallels Anzaldua’s stereotypical images of passive Black, Chinese, Chicana, and Indian women who know how to treat a man.

Anzaldua’s image here mirrors Shirley Williams’s protagonist Dessa Rose; those identifying Rs branded on her thigh and hip by the slave owner constitute an act of discursive domination tonguees Dessa’s body and relegate her to the status of object.

Struggling to gain her subjectivity, Anzaldua questions her compelling need to write. Because I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive…. Furthermore, Anzaldua insists on being the one to write her own stories; to make myselfshe adds, just like Sula does in Toni Morrison’s eponymous novel, who declares her need to make herself and not anyone else when confronted with the issue of marriage.

Sula’s characteristic outspokenness and disregard for the objections of the community about her behavior complement Anzaldua’s need to write about the unmentionablesdisregarding the outrage of censors and audience alike. Writing represents an act of resistance in Anzaldua’s life. Imposed definitions must be fought.

The need to survive is stronger than the fear of surrendering: I’m scared of anzsldua but I’m more scared of not gloriiashe proclaims in one line, yet in the next she aanzaldua herself on her merits, her qualifications. It is the quest for the self, for the center of the self, which we women of color have come to think as other — the dark, the feminine … we knew we were different, set apart, exiled… Elaborating on this act of making soul, Togues offers the images of “other,” “quest for anzsldua and “exile,” also by now familiar tropes in the writings of African-American women.


Speaikng such as Sula, Janie, Celie, and dpeaking exemplify this quest for acceptance by the world outside and the world inside. Their own communities, where they often return in search of solace and acceptance, are not always welcoming. Writing seems to be the answer for Anzaldua as well as for many of the Black women writers who, anzaldau their protagonists and in a dialectical fashion, attempt to uncover and discover the sites of oppression and repression while, simultaneously, creating a safe space for themselves.

Situating herself in a relatively privileged position where she can “lie in bed” and write all day, her attention turns to those who should write while riding the bus or waiting in the welfare line, during meals or before going to sleep. Finally, the concluding letter addresses the tasks at hand and places responsibility squarely on the women’s shoulders. Quoting Alice Walker’s words from “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” Anzaldua questions the fate of all the women who throughout history were not allowed to express their creativity, speculating that if they had been, they would have achieved the power required to defeat oppression.

Writing that brings on change in the lives of poor children, women, people of color; writing that is born from real human beings and returns to them liberatory and useful: In the last few lines, Anzaldua introduces the trope of on howl, “a form of speaking in tongues and a linguistic disruption that serves as the precondition for Sula’s entry into language” This sound allows Sula’s expression of her subjectivity as a Black female, just speaknig Anzaldua demands that women of color appropriate that howl and transform it into words, into a language that will free us materially, emotionally, and intellectually.

The African-American women respond—through my reading of their words—on a number of levels. Letters, poems, and journal entries included in the epistolary essay constitute a dialogue between genres. English is not the only tongue of choice; Spanish takes yongues rightful place in the writing. In this way, genres and languages meet and speak to each other as the women speak to each other, anzalduz each other. We meet at a crossroad—in this case called academia —as Third-World women writers and critics; we meet at a wider space and open ourselves up and interact with one another freely.

Required Reading: Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers

Their task, our task, is to unravel, explain, and transform our work into meaningful, useful, and empowering tools for our lives. This Bridge Called My Back has been one of these tools, a markedly important one in the trajectory of Third-World women writers.

But it must continue in real life. Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, Rutgers University Press, Subsequent references are to this edition and are cited parenthetically in the text. Revisions and Redefinitions,” Modern Critical Voices: Harold Bloom New York: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation Magazine, May 19, Christian New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, vi: Gloria Anzaldua San Francisco: Aunt Lute Foundation Books,