BY NADIA GERASSIMENKO
"I have hope for race relations in the future, but I'm not blind to the fact that they may never significantly improve. There may always be biracial people who try to pass for white" is what Christine Stoddard writes in her first story—La Hija Mixta in Spanish Class—in her chapbook Chica/Mujer (Locofo Press, 2017), taking readers on an unapologetic journey in stories that are often muted or altogether erased but which ultimately need to exist in contemporary narratives—and in our lives. These are the stories that merit our attention, as people and as a society.
Chica/Mujer is a collection of vignettes about women and for women who are biracial but hide their identities or who wear them on their sleeve. It is also for women who grieve the loss of an unborn child or who resist motherhood after giving birth. It is for women who were raped, and for those whose wounds are raw. It is for women who have sex for empowerment. It is for women who are going through menarche but don't quite know how to welcome it or for those who deem it a beautiful, strengthening, cleansing ritual. It is for women who studied so hard to end up working in an entirely different job than they first envisioned or who forewent a full-scholarship due to an unforeseeable traumatic event.
What makes these vulnerable and bold snippets into women's lives all the more relatable is the oft-used first-person narrative, as if you're reading an open diary or catching up with a friend over coffee.
And when the narrator directs their attention towards you, you feel like it might have even happened to you, even if it didn't. What makes these stories even more real is how delicately and genuinely Stoddard approaches each account, never questioning the protagonists, never shaming them for their thoughts, feelings, and actions—always giving them agency for being themselves and telling it all as it is.
Christine Stoddard ends her last vignette—Copied—with profoundly thoughtful words: "Dark as it was, the room became a womb. I was inside of you, just as you had been inside of me. I would sleep and maybe when I woke up, you would be born, and your father would be somewhere in the stars. Genesis with no Adam. We would be blind for four days until we saw the sun. Then life would really begin. But we'd have to be quiet and wait for our Eden."
It's a cathartic way to end the story and summarize the entire collection, bringing a sense of much-needed closure to readers who may relate to these unabashed, brilliant, and fearless women. It gives more space and agency to the women who have been left voiceless, to the women who are tired of being misrepresented ethnically and as human beings, to the women who always fight for the right to be heard.
Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist who lives in Brooklyn. Her visuals have appeared in the New York Transit Museum, the Ground Zero Hurricane Katrina Museum, the Poe Museum, the Queens Museum, the Condé Nast Building, George Washington University's Gallery 102, and beyond. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding the culture magazine, Quail Bell. Stoddard also is the author of Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press), Ova (Dancing Girl Press), Chica/Mujer (Locofo Press), Lavinia Moves to New York (Underground Voices), The Eating Game (Scars Publications), and two miniature books from the Poems-For-All series.
Nadia Gerassimenko is the assistant editor at Luna Luna Magazine by day, a moonchild and poet by night. Nadia self-published her first poetry collection "Moonchild Dreams" (2015) and hopes to republish it traditionally. She's currently working on her second chapbook, "at the water's edge." Visit her at tepidautumn.net or tweet her at @tepidautumn.