The following is the first guest post in our new “The Next Generation” column, featuring young feminists under the age of 30 who are not yet established in an academic career. If you fit this description and are interested in writing your own take for us on bridging feminist research with popular reality, please submit your idea and a little about yourself via our contact form.
Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar. (Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks.)
Gloria E. Anzaldúa
I first delved into anthologies as an earnest teen combing the “Women’s Studies” section of the woefully-understocked local library. The few books with subtitles like: “Real Girls Tell Their Stories” were an enticing draw—an accessible bridge between the voices of young women in the YA section and the more dense, demanding academic writing on the shelves. In anthologies, professional and ‘amateur’ writers commingled, their only requirements that their piece adhere to the theme of the book and that they write from the heart. Though some pieces were well-researched, footnoted and produced within the context of an academy, some of the best were the uncensored thoughts of authors.
Through “girls,” I branched out to “women”—women writing about having children, about marriage, domestic life, queer women, women of color. I searched for years for a copy of This Bridge Called My Back, the groundbreaking anthology edited by the late Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga, before finally being rewarded with the challenging, thought-provoking, and touching book that other anthologies so lovingly describe it as.
Learning how to read academic writing is a challenge, with a liberal arts education or without. Anthologies may be published less frequently, but their style lives on in the accessible, democratic “call for submissions” of the vast blogosphere.1
Anthologies are the bridge we build: the most direct bridge between writer and reader, and a bridge to new concepts. In the introduction, you get the condensed version of the topic. In the ensuing essays, you get the unfiltered perspective of people who actually live the experiences they are writing about: something of a rarity in traditional academic writing.
To get started, pick an anthology with a title and cover that resonates with you. Remember, this is a guide for beginners. Unlike most books, you’re not obligated to read the whole thing. Yes, a committed reader (or someone who feels guilty if they abandon books midway through) may plow through the whole book, but even then one is not obligated to read essays in order. In a good anthology, at least, a diligent reader is rewarded with opposing viewpoints and entries that titillate, resonate, force one to reexamine beliefs or form new ones.
At the very least, anthologies serve as an accessible, enlightening, and even enjoyable bridge into topics or groups of voices with which one is not familiar. Pick one up, flip through, and enjoy!
Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation
Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme
YELL-Oh Girls! Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian American
Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color
Nice Jewish Girls: A Lesbian Anthology
That’s Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation
The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader
The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage
Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class (Live Girls)
Cornelia Beckett is a young feminist writer, activist, and student at Smith College. Her own work appears in a feminist anthology called Click (Seal Press). She has also contributed to the NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Blog and thefbomb.org.