Cherríe Moraga is a poet, playwright, essayist, educator, cultural activist and more, and on Tuesday night she spoke about her recent book “Native Country of the Heart: If We Forget Ourselves, Who Will Be Left to Remember Us?” at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.
The event was part of the UNC Latina/o Studies Program’s Speaker Series, which hosts writers and scholars whose work explores the intersections between Latinx and African-American culture, between Chicana/o and Native American studies, and between Latinx studies and Asian Diaspora studies.
“We have had two wonderful speakers (this year),” Director of Latina/o Studies María DeGuzmán said. “We had Sandra Cisneros back in February and we had Cherríe Moraga today. They’re probably the best known Chicano/a writers in the U.S. in the last 30, 35 years and were extremely lucky to be able to get both of them to campus as part of the educational mission of the Latina/Latino Studies program.”
Moraga’s book explores the U.S.-Mexican diaspora through the lens of her mother’s life. She described the memoir as a "portrait” of her relationship with her mother, rather than a full biography. Before reading, Moraga discussed her identity as a Chicana woman, which is central to her writing.
Moraga also discussed her mother’s life in Tijuana, Mexico during the Great Depression by reading a chapter from her book.
“My mother, she had a huge life before I came into the world,” Moraga said before reading. “She was 38 when she had me, and so these stories of her past I knew already when I was a little chiquita. My mother was an credible cuentista, storyteller.”
A slideshow of family photographs, a Q&A session and a book signing followed Moraga’s reading.
“(I came to this event) because of a deep, tender love for Cherríe Moraga,” UNC graduate student Emilio Taiveaho said. “Basically because of the rippling effects that ‘This Bridge Called My Back’ has had on the current world.”
“This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color” was published in 1981 and co-edited by Moraga.
UNC graduate student Marcy Pedzwater said she came to Moraga’s reading to supplement her studies on 20th century North and Latin American literature.
“It was wonderful,” Pedzwater said. “She had a lot of really interesting things to say, and I’m excited to read ‘Native Country of the Heart.’”
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