I  began writing when I was a very young child. In my teens, when we moved to the U.S., I arrived as the second wave of feminism was exploding everywhere. Part of that explosion was a literary movement. And it was through reading the literature in little booklets and pamphlets of poetry that I really received full permission to write about my experiences. I had been reading poetry and fiction from an early age: I had read some Latin American writers who had given me a degree of permission to write about my culture, but it was the poetry of feminists that really gave me permission to write about my own life and all the ingredients of it. It broadened my understanding of what was acceptable as literature. It was in the context of that movement that I had the support to write, and to look toward publishing. I was in a whole series of women's writing groups; that was really my base of support. Particularly African American women, like Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. When my work and my mother's work was included in This Bridge Called My Back, through that anthology I met a large number of women of color who were writing. There was a tremendous upsurge of women of color who were getting published. That spurred more people to write. I identify with Latin American writers, female and male, but U.S. women of color are my literary home base.



I frequently write stuff that challenges the "politically correct" line. Partly that has to do with my personal enjoyment of complexity. This may also be a factor of my mixed heritage, of being binational and bilingual. I like to talk about situations in their full complexity as much as possible, and try not to shy away from that, so I end up saying things that aren't "politically correct" in very rigid circles. But I don't feel pressure within the feminist publishing community to conform to a particular line. There's been a tremendous willingness to engage in conflict and controversy.

The sense of pressure that I do feel has to do with my feelings about the community that I'm writing for: I have a commitment to myself not to take the easy route, to not say things that I don't believe in, to tackle things in a truthful way. The books that we write, particularly as women of color, are books that people use in their lives in very important ways. I've had people tell me that my book helped keep them in school or helped them tackle some problem in their lives. There is a fair amount of literature that comes out of oppressed groups that just complains about how hard things are. I think writers have to be leaders in our communities, and need to give people something to work with, something to move from, a sense of power and responsibility.




"Testimonies to Survival: An Interview with Aurora Levins Morales" © 1993, 1995 by Aurora Levins Morales and the STANDARDS Editorial Collective
Interview by Julia Doughty

 Original Graphic Images © 1995 by Jim Davis Rosenthal and Canéla A. Jaramillo



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