This Bridge Called My Back
This Bridge Called My Back
Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds. Foreword by Toni Cade Bambara and Illustrations by Johnetta Tinker.
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.
Watertown, Massachusetts: Persephone Press, 1981.
First edition, first printing. [xxvi] 261 pp. Paperback. Slight wearing and creased upper corner to cover, “B.” written on half title, otherwise clean and in good condition.
ABOUT THIS OBJECT
The first anthology dedicated to women of color published anywhere in the USA. In Pedagogies of Crossing, M. Jacqui Alexander pays tribute to the beauty and power of the women’s words collected here: “For me, Bridge was both anchor and promise in that I could begin to frame a lesbian feminist woman of color consciousness and, at the same time, move my living in a way that would provide the moorings for that consciousness. Neither anchor nor promise could have been imaginable without the women in Bridge, who gave themselves permission to write, to speak in tongues. I was not part of the sweat and fire that birthed a woman of color politics in [the USA] in the 1970s and 1980s. This is why I want to remember that I have been shaped by it.”
This Bridge Called My Back was a landmark of feminist, collective print activism and deservingly has been in publication almost constantly by imprints founded by the readers it inspired: after it was first published in 1981, a second edition was published by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press in 1983, and later editions by Third Woman Press and most recently in 2015, by the State University of New York Press. As described by Kristen Hogan in The Feminist Bookstore Movement it was a labor of collective love and rage, using publishing as a strategy to build solidarity against racism. Poems and stories from the work were first read pre-publication in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury in 1980, organised by the Combahee River Collective and the Bessie Smith Memorial Collective to raise funds for their protest against “the Boston Police Departments apathetic investigation of the murders of twelve Black women and one white woman in Boston.” Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich were among those gathered for the reading. At the Second Women in Print Conference held in 1981 in Washington D.C., contributors to the publication maintained a powerful presence at the official launch of the book, addressing the impoverished representation of writing by women of color in print and spurning conversations about how that could be changed: conference panels included “Racism & Classism in Periodicals, Bookstores and Publishing Organizations,” and “Creating an Inclusive Lesbian Literature.” Hogan notes that the conversations This Bridge Called My Back powered are still alive and thriving, to be found online under hashtags like #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen. Tto return to Cherríe Moraga’s preface in This Bridge is to return to the heart of why publishing matters:
I am not talking here about some lazy faith, where we resign ourselves to the tragic splittings in our lives with an upward turn of the hands or a vicious beating of our breasts. I am talking about believing that we have the power to actually transform our experience, change our lives, save our lives. Otherwise, why this book? It is the faith of activists that I am talking about.
The materialism in this book lives in the flesh of these women’s lives: the exhaustion we feel in our bones at the end of the day, the fire we feel in our hearts when we are insulted, the knife we feel in our backs when we are betrayed, the nausea we feel in our bellies when we are afraid, even the hunger we feel between our hips when we long to be touched.
[…] This book is written for all the women in it and all whose lives our lives will touch. We are a family who first only knew each other in our dreams, who have come together on these pages to make faith a reality and to bring all our selves to bear down hard on that reality.
It is about physical and psychic struggle. It is about intimacy, a desire for life between all of us, not settling for less than freedom even in the most private aspects of our lives. A total vision. For the women in this book, I will lay my body down for that vision. This Bridge Called My Back.
M. Jacqui Alexander, “Remembering This Bridge Called My Back, Remembering Ourselves,” Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred (Duke University Press, 2005) pp. 254-286.
Kristen Hogan, The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016).