"See What My Truth Has Allowed Me to Create"

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"See What My Truth Has Allowed Me to Create" The Self-Making Potential of Memory in Daisy Hernandez's A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir and Roxane Gay's Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
Fernandez, Andreina Elena
University of Florida
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Master's ( M.A.)
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University of Florida
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Women's Studies
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feminism -- feminist -- life-writing -- memoir -- memory -- queer -- women
Women's Studies -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
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Women's Studies thesis, M.A.


Although often the medium of elite politicians, celebrities, and other high-status figures, women of color, particularly queer women of color (QWOC), are carving out a space in the mainstream memoir genre. I consider these QWOC memoirs to be part of an emerging mode of feminist cultural intervention that has roots in the Black, lesbian, and Third World feminist life writing that arose in the late 1970s and 1980s. I interpret these memoirs as mediums that allow for QWOC to write their own narratives and allow dominant culture a window into their subjectivities while also, importantly, serving as vehicles to understand how marginalization is created and perpetuated in the first place. In this thesis, I perform a close reading of A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir (2014) by Daisy Hernandez and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (2017) by Roxane Gay. I explore how Hernandez and Gay deploy their own queer analytics to reshape memories and form generative, meaningful narratives about their lives. I argue that these narratives allow them, and the reader, to better understand their subjectivities and the systems of power and oppression that structure their lives. Viewing QWOC memoirs as distinct creative formations allows us to understand the depths of the cultural critiques and discursive interventions these authors are making through their widely distributed and celebrated memoirs. As A Cup of Water Under My Bed and Hunger demonstrate, QWOC narratives are powerful sources of knowledge that provide insight into the social workings of our worlds and write our very selves into existence. ( en )
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2020.
Adviser: Hernandez,Jillian.
Co-adviser: Celeste,Manoucheka.
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by Andreina Elena Fernandez.

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© 2020 Andreina Elena Fernandez


To remembering , being remembered , and healing in community


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to begin by thanking the two women whose memoirs I write about in this thesis : Daisy Hernández and Roxane Ga y. I thank them for the ir generous words and the healing and growth their writing has inspired in me. I would also like to thank my thesis committee and the scholars whose involvement with this thesis has been indispensable. To Dr. Jillian Hernandez , the chair of my committee, for her unending support and confidence in my academic abilities. This thesis would not be what it is today without her guidance. To Dr. Manoucheka Celeste, my second reader, for being the first faculty member to really take an interest in me as a human being, for her constant reminders to be kind to myself, rest, and breathe, and, of course, for her vital feedback on this thesis. To Dr. Tanya Saunders, whose brilliant and engaging courses have been central to my academic growth and have left their mark on this thesis. T o Logan Neser and Melissa Powers, my friends and cohort members, for their gracious feedback and support and to my entire cohort for their kindness and solidarity. I would al so like to thank Donna Tuckey who always went above and beyond to ensure my success. I extend a warm and loving thanks t o all of my friends who listened to me complain , grounded me, and reminded me that there is life outside of this thesis . I would like to give a special thanks to a few of them . To the many lovely and powerful queer women and people of color in my life, I thank them for helping me find my place in this world, especially when it feels like there is none. To Madeleine Hill, who was the firs t person I came out to five years ago , I thank her for commiserating with me and helping me figure myself out . It was her push for me to take a philosophy course during our senior year that it set me on the path that To Claudia


5 Luna, who, aside from being my forever friend, gifted me A Cup of Water Under My Bed nearly 5 years ago and waited patiently for me to finally get around to reading it. I hope the wait was worth it. To Nahal Khamisani, who knows, better than anyone , the immense challenge that it was to complete this thesis . I thank her for her patience , kindness, generosity, and presence in my life that made this project feel a little less insurmountable each day . Lastly, and most importantly, I thank mi mami, María Antonietta Diaz, y mi papi , Jorge Enrique Fernandez. Their unconditional love and support have taken me farther than I could have ever imagined, and I am grateful, every day ( even on the days I do no t show it ) for them.


6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ................................ ................................ ............................. 7 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 10 A Note on Language ................................ ................................ ............................... 15 Queer Women of Color Memoir: Selected Works ................................ ................... 17 Memoir, Life Writing, and Women of Color Feminisms ................................ ........... 18 Chapter Overview ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 23 2 THREADS OF MEMORY, HILOS OF COMMUNITY: ON MEMORY, A CUP OF WATER UNDER MY BED: A MEMOIR ................................ ................................ ................ 26 Stitching Memories, Crafting Subjectivity ................................ ................................ 27 Hija, buscame el hilo and Other Threads of Migration ................................ ...... 28 Thread as Memory ................................ ................................ ........................... 31 ................................ ........... 37 Language and Knowledge ................................ ................................ ................ 37 Religion, Spirituality, & Coloniality in the Diaspora ................................ ........... 42 The American Dream of Successful Alienation ................................ ................ 46 3 HUNGER: A MEMOIR OF (MY) BODY ................................ ................................ .. 52 Writing on the Body and of the Body ................................ ................................ ...... 57 (My) Body, her Body, the Body ................................ ................................ ......... 65 ................................ ................................ .................. 68 Being Gay and/or Being gay ................................ ................................ ............. 68 On being the Good daughter: Reconciling with respectability .......................... 76 Toward Futures of Hunger and Healing ................................ ................................ .. 81 4 CONCLUDING IN THE BEGINNING ................................ ................................ ...... 86 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................... 89 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ............................ 93


7 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS LGBTQ Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer QWOC Queer Women of Color


8 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts THE SELF MAKING POTENTIAL OF MEMORY IN DAISY HERN Á A CUP OF WATER UNDER MY BED : A MEMOIR HUNGER: A MEMOIR OF (MY) BODY By Andreina Elena Fernandez May 2020 Chair: Jillian Hernandez Maj or: A lthough often the medium of elite politicians, celebrities, and other high status figures, women of color, particularly queer women of color (QWOC) , are carv ing out a space in the mainstream memoir genre. I consider these QWOC memoirs to be part of an emerging mode of feminist cultural intervention that has roots in the Black, lesbian, and T hird W orld feminist life writing that arose in the late 19 70s and 19 80s . I interpret these memoirs as medium s that allow for QWOC to write their ow n narratives and allow dominant culture a window into their subjectivit ies while also , importantly, serving as vehicles to understand how marginalization is created and perpetuated in the first place . In this thesis, I perform a close reading of Daisy Hern ández A Cup of Water Under My Bed : A Memoir (2014) Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body ( 2017 ) . I explore how Hernández and Gay deploy their own queer analytics to reshape memories and form generative, meaningful narratives about their li ves. I argue that these narratives allow them, and the reader , to better understand their subjectivities and the systems of power and oppression that structure their lives . Viewing QWOC memoirs as distinct creative formation s allow s us to understand the depths o f the cultural critiques


9 and discursive interventions these authors are making through their widely distributed and celebrated memoirs. As Hernández QWOC narratives are powerful sources of knowledge that provide insight into the social workings of our worlds and write our very selves into existence.


10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel Lecture What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Audre Lorde, I spent most of my childhood reading books in offices. My parents worked long hours so I would sit in an empty chair and read for hours. I would bring a book with me everywhere, there was always a chance I would need it. When I was a bit older, I would spe nd the summers at the library all day. My parents would drop me off in the morning and go to work. They would pick me up for lunch and then it would be right back to the library or to an empty seat at their office. Reading books transported me to new place s, kept me engaged, and taught me about worlds outside my own. They also, importantly, developed my reading and writing skills quickly, a necessary skillset as the young daughter of immigrant parents who often asked for my help to translate documents or pr oofread letters. I read so much, so often, about other people real and imagined and almost always found ways to connect to them. At first, I read mostly fiction , but growing up in a town with a big Jewish population and public schools that had us read at least one book about the Holocaust each year , I began to read personal accounts, fiction based on real events, and memoir . I am grateful for these books, and I developed a small obsession for them as a kid, because they taught me about the mundane, complex humanity of people in the most abject conditions and sparked a burgeoning political awareness in


11 me as early as 8 or 9 years old. What I rarely read, though, were stories that reminded me of my own, books about people who were familiar to me. It was not u ntil my first year as an undergraduate at the University of Florida that I found a book that I saw myself in, and it spurred the love for memoir that has led me to this thesis. It was the summer of 2013, I was walking around a bookstore and stumbled upon was a fan of show, The Mindy Project, so when I saw her name on the spine of a book, I eagerly grabbed it off the shelf . Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), I remember thinking something like, (Kaling 2011, 11) . This was definitely a book for me. I ended up reading it sprawled out on my bed in my freshly decorated dorm room , wide eyed and e that felt so familiar to my own. In her short essays, she wrote with confidence and humor about moments, inner thoughts, and insecurities that, at the time, I could not imagine myself ever feeling comfortable discussing. Even her simple assertion of bein g chubby made my jaw drop. How did she feel comfortable saying that ? Who confidently claims their chubbiness rather than shirking from the label in fear of the certain rejection that comes with it? In a time in my adolescence when I felt so lost and unsure of myself, I dreamed of attaining her security and voice. At seventeen, I was seeking desperately to connect the dots of my own life, to have a story that made sense, to have processed my experiences so fully that I could write cute and quirky life lesson s about them. Reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)


12 written in her own words, her own voice that felt familiar, complicated, and imperfect, like m y own. nearly seven years after I first picked it up, it is almost surprising just how impactful it was for me. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is funny and personal, highlighting the frequent awkward manner of things, opinions that I do not share, and quips about friends and boys that I cannot quite relate to. Reading this today, it feels significantly less recognizable and less profound for me. When I first read it, though, I was starving for a narrative, any narrative, that I could recognize myself within. I grew up a chubby girl struggling with my body image and confused about my sexuality. I was a Venezuelan immigrant surrounded by the hyper sexual representations of the uber feminine women I was identity, all of my friends were thinner than me, wrapped up in the boys they were dating while I searched for ways t o lose weight and ignore the confusing desire I wished I did not have. In the scarcity of self defined and complex media representation for women of color, the few identities and experiences Kaling and I did share were enough for me and, thankfully, her bo ok opened me up to the hidden (to me) writing. After , I moved on to the other comedic memoirs that were Bossypants (2011), Yes Please (2014) , Why Not Me? (2015) . These books were amusing and engaging, certainly more so than the academic texts I spent most of my


13 time reading. Still, there was something about my experience reading that I missed . I lon ged for that connection that made me feel less alone in the world and I was ready, now, for more than just a vaguely familiar story. I needed more than just recognition, I was looking for narratives that helped me place myself in the world and make sense o f my experiences. I moved through the rest of my time in undergrad in a blur of courses , student involvement, and burn out; I no longer found the joy and meaning in reading that I once did. That feeling of disillusionment persisted until just after graduat ion when Roxane Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body was released in the summer of 2017. I listened to her narrate her audiobook and that familiar feeling of recognition appeared again; I felt known, understood, and seen through her telling of her life. Mor e than that, though, her narrative and commentary about her life helped me connect the dots of my own. What was compelling to me about Hunger was its ability to connect broader social realities herself. Reading Hun ger , I not only recognized my own complicated relationship with food, family, and sexuality, but I also experienced a deeply personal moment of politicized consciousness raising. Hunger helped me connect my lived experiences to a greater socio political la ndscape and illustrated the complex and contradicting ways I had also engaged with cultural uncover my own. From then on, memoirs became my way to both escape from an d connect to the world. After Hunger, I quickly began to find similar texts. First, In the Country We Love (2016) , then Redefining Realness (2014) , (2016) , Surpassing


14 Certainty (2017) , When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives M atter Memoir (2018) , A Cup of Water Under My Bed (2014) , A Two Spirit Journey (2016) , Becoming (2018) , Sick (2018) , and most recently We Have Always Been Here (2019) , all memoirs or autobiographies by women of color, all published between 2014 and 2019 1 . Although often the medium of elite politicians, celebrities, or other high status figures, women of color, particularly queer women of color (QWOC) , are beginning to carve out a space in the mainstream memoir genre. I posit that this recent proliferation o f women of color memoir follows in the tradition of early women of color feminist life y Black lesbian feminist poet Audre Lorde writes about the use of poetry as a medium for the expression of our experiences and the knowledge those experiences foster. Lorde writes: For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is how we give name to the nameless so it can be though t. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives . (Lorde 2007, 37) 1 Diane Guerrero and Michelle Burford, In the Country We Lov e (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016). Janet Mock, Redefining Realness : My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, & So Much More (New York: Atria Books, 2014). Phoebe Robinson, : And Other Things I Still Have to Explain (New York: Plume, 2016). Janet Mock, Surpassing Certainty : What My Twenties Taught Me ( New York: Atria Books, 2017). Patrisse Khan Cullors and asha bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir . Daisy Hernández, A Cup of Water Under My Bed : A Memoir (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014) . Ma Nee Chacaby and Mary Louisa Plummer, A Two Spirit Journey : The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa Cree Elder (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2016). Michelle Obama, Becoming (New York: Crown, 2018). Porochista Khakpour, Sick : A Memoir (Ne w York: Harper Perennial, 2018). Samra Habib, We Have Always Been Here : A Queer Muslim Memoir (Toronto: Viking, 2019).


15 She asks us to understand poetry through its affect, through the feelings and experiences it names, produces, and evokes. This is ess ential because, as Lorde describes, rather than rely on fact, idea, or rationale, poetry relies on forms of knowing that are illegible to European epistemologies. For Lorde, poetry is how we name what has not yet been named, express the depths of our exper iences, and, to take from the title of one of her essays, transform language into action. understanding of poetry that I explore the power of QWOC memoir. The memoirs I engage with em as I will explore in t his thesis us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded (Lorde 2007, 37) . Queer women of color are tapping into this reserve to examine and record the knowledge of emotion and experience through memoir. In this thesis, I will perform a clo se reading of Daisy Hernández A Cup of Water Under My Bed : A Memoir (2014) Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body ( 2017 ) in order to understand the ways QWOC are using memoir as a medium for feminist theorizing and consciousness raising. Considering questions of memory, embodiment, and citizenship, I will identify and explore the knowledge, critiques, and interventions that I interpret in these memoirs. A Not e on Language Most commonly and recently, Hernández and Gay use the term bisexual to de scribe


16 themselves but both, at times, also S exuality is a complex negotiation for both of these women, and it involves and impacts their lives, and their telling of their lives, in ways that are not simply limited to the gender of their partners. The sexual experiences and identifications of these women are to unify their varied descriptions of non normative desire, iden tification, and experience , allowing for a more fluid boundary for future contributions to this archive, while also always honoring the complexity and specificity of their sexual subjectivities. Similarly, I chose to describe these works as written by referring to them in relation to one another , understanding that the history of this term is rooted in Black feminist organizing and was intended to be a politicized term that unifies women who are oppressed by white supremacy in a myria d of distinct and intersecting ways (Ross 2011) . Understanding this history, it is essential to also acknowledge the criticism this term has received from Black women, in par ticular, in recent years. experiences of having the term used to undermine the specificity of their experiences (McCullers 2018) . I recognize how this term has been employed broadly, without its politicized intention, to silence bl ack women and do not suggest that the experiences of the memoirists I analyze are by any means representative of all non white women or even of all women who share their specific social positions. Rather, I aim to use the y to note the impact of white supremacy on the lives of these women, point to some of their shared social experiences, and index some of


17 their unifying creative and cultural affinities all while insisting on the necessity for the specificity of their exper iences and individual politicized subjectivities. Queer Women of Color Memoir : Selected Works Although many QWOC memoirs would be apt selections for analysis, I have connecti on to their histories of migration and their shared backgrounds as both creative writers and academics. Daisy Hernández is the daughter of Cuban and Colombian parents, a 2 nd generation immigrant, and a bisexual woman. Hernández is also an Assistant Profess or in the Creative Writing Program at Miami University in Ohio, the coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism, and previously the editor of ColorLines magazine 2020 ) . In her memoir A Cup of Water Under My Bed : A Memoir , Hernández explores the lessons she has learned from the women in her Cuban Colombian family and how these lessons have guided her towards queer self discovery. Roxane Gay is a Haiti an American, bisexual, fat, Black woman, a 2nd generation immigrant or 1st generation U.S. American, and was previously a professor of creative writing. Her memoir Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body explores the fects that her childhood rape has had on her body and, in turn, the ways she and society at large have treated her body. These two women are connected through their bisexuality, their connection to migration, their positionality as women of color, and thei r backgrounds as creative writers, self proclaimed feminists, and professors. These varied connections become salient in their writing as Hernández and Gay both approach their memoirs through innovative and creative storytelling, an approach that I underst and as reflective of their shared experiences of queerness and migration.


18 As I will explore further in what follows, Hernández and Gay deploy their own queer analytics to reshape memories and form generative, meaningful narratives of their life, narrative s that allow them, and us, to better understand their subjectivities and the systems of power and oppression that structure their lives. I consider these memoirs as part of an emerging mode of feminist intervention that has its roots in the Black, lesbian, and third world women life writing that arose in the late 70s and 80s. It is my hope that viewing QWOC memoirs as a distinct creative formation will allow us to further understand the depths of the cultural critiques and interventions these women are maki ng through their widely distributed memoirs. Memoir, Life Writing, and Women of Color Feminisms Hunger or Daisy Hernández A Cup of Water Under My Bed in my view, form a contemporary iteration of a genealogy of women of color feminist life writing. Forms of life writing have long been integral to women of color theorizations of self. Seminal tex ts like Sister Outsider and This Bridge Called My Back are interventions in form and content that challenge dominant forms of knowledge production. T hese texts have shaped a tradition of life writing that uses the deeply personal to reflect on and theorize about subjectivity and identity, all while also insisting on the value and importance of forms of writing, like poetry, that were not taken seriously in academic or activist spheres. Whereas Black and Third World (mostly lesbian) feminists in the late 20 t h and early 21 st century often relied on self publishing to circulate their interventions in both academic and social spheres, works written by women of color are being widely published by major imprints. I n my view, memoir allows for the kind of creativit y that


19 woman of color feminist life writing demands and so has become a site for the proliferation of this kind of writing. Memoir is often critiqued for its lack of objectivity and reliance on the memory of the author (Couser 2012) . Memoirists shape the stories of their lives, at times intentionally and at times not, to craft a narrative that most closely fits their own understanding of self (and the self they want to portray to the world ) . I assert that it is precisely this subjec tivity that positions memoir as a site of remembering, documenting and asserting women of color narratives through their own interpretive and analytic lens es . I recognize that what is narrated in the memoirs of women of color may be subjective because it i s shaped by memory. However, I choose to interpret the significance of memory, the ways in which memory is always political, rather than attempt to find a n Talpade Mohanty has written on the remembering against the grain of public or hegemonic history, of locating the silences and the struggle to assert knowledge tha t is outside the parameters of the dominant, (Talpade Mohanty 2003, 83) . I understand these memoirs as form s of remembering, documenting , and asserting their lives through their own interpretive lens. Gloria Anzaldúa asserts the need for women of color writing, for its specificity and vulnerability (Moraga and Anzaldúa 2015, 163) . Anzaldúa writes: The danger in writing is not fusing our personal experiences and worl dview with the social reality we live in, with our inner life, our history,


2 0 that are important to us whether with our self or others. We must use what is important to us to get to the wr iting. No topic is too trivial. The danger is in being too universal and humanitarian and invoking the eternal to the sacrifice of the particular and the feminine and the specific historical moment . (Moraga and Anzaldúa 2015, 168) For Anzaldúa , writing was a medium to create the self and assert herself in a world where she is rendered invisible. Writing, for Anzaldúa (Moraga and Anzaldúa 2015, 167) . This embodied theory that Anzaldúa posits is performed in the memoirs of QWOC that I analyze . As these women write the narratives of their lives, they theorize their subjectivities , what it means for them to exist as themselves. These women are writing on their embodiment and making their felt and experienced knowledges visible through these memoirs. In doing so, they assert what Avery Gordon (2008) personhood . remember and forget, are beset by contradiction, and recognize and misrecognize (Gordon 2008, 4) . Complex personhood, at its most basic level, (Gordon 2008, 5) . In writing their interpretations of their experiences, these memoirists remind us that QWOC are not abject figures. They are complex, filled with rich affective lives and reaching for belonging in varied ways. Following the legacy of women of color life writing, memoir can serve as a way for marginalized people to write their narratives int o a cultural imaginary that renders them invisible or, at best, one dimensional. They can be a formal way to integrate marginalized subjectivities into literary history and, without further inspection, could be


21 understood as a desire for normative acceptan ce through visibility. I interpret these memoirs, though, as a medium for both knowing the other and the self but also , importantly, as vehicles to understand how Otherness is created and perpetuated in the first place . Texts like This Bridge Called My Bac k were revolutionary not just because they documented the experiences of Black and Third World women, lesbians, and feminists but also because they did so as a direct intervention into the white dominated feminist and gay and lesbian movements of the time. Writing about their lives made visible the tensions in these movements, formed a critique of oppressive social and cultural logics, and offered a queer and feminist vision for futures of coalitional liberation. Because memoirs allow their authors to be cr eative with the organization and lens of their life, in contrast to the more rigid and chronological autobiography, these memoirists are able to address social injustices through their framing of their own life experiences. Through memoir, QWOC are able to maintain this tradition of life writing as a means for social change. Here, I turn to María playful world travelling to further explore the ways QWOC are engaging with the genre of memoir (Lugones 1987, 3) any kind of (Lugones 1987, 9) . A world, in dominant groups, by many people or just a few, and as we travel th rough them, the attributes we embody can be altered. Although this ability to world travel is necessary for the outsider, as Lugones


22 (Lugones 1987, 3) d travelling then engaging with QWOC memoirs can be a way to travel into a world that fully encapsulates the intricacies of their internal world s , as a way to engage lovingly tions (Lugones 1987, 3) . Lugones writes that th is form of travelling is loving, and it is a what it is to be them and what it is to be ourselves in their eyes. Only when we have (Lugones 1987, 17) . Queer woman of color memoirs, then, can be understood as a written portal into a world in which the reader can identify with the memoirist . with caution. Boyce Davies is critical of ease and lack of concern with the material realities, and the impacts of tourism to popular tourist destinations, like the Caribbean. Thinking specifically about her own experience as a child in the Caribbe an, Boyce Davies reflects on how tourists, who travelers often exploit the Caribbean and engage with the region through the lens of their own pleasure and desire. For Boyce Davies, it is necessary to be attentive to how the language Lugones uses translates to the material n, Boyce Davies writes, The Caribbean child that I was witnessed many tourists who seemed to be for their encounters. We were never fully thinking, acting beings. The Caribbean is too easily identified as the place of playful world travelling for us to engage that formulation without caution . (Boyce Davies 1994, 17) In this passage, Boyce Davies offers a critique of tourism that is also reflective of the narrative of Antigua that Jamaica Kincaid offers in her life writing, A Small Place . For


23 both Boyce Davies and Kincaid, tourists often understand themselves as a sort of reside in their tourist destinations and their own impact on socio politic al and economic situation of the area (Bo yce Davies 1994; Kincaid 2017) . Places like the Caribbean, then, are reduced to places from which tourists get to return, places devoid of consequence and filled with people whose lives lack the complexity of the tourists. This engagement with the Carib marginalizing the people whose world they seek to visit. Just as Boyce Davies is attentive to the material impact of real world travelers I strive to be attentive to political economy in my analysis of the memoirs of these queer women of color. As I ruminate on the potential politics of QWOC memoir, I do not mean to imply that QWOC are writing memoirs to humanize themselves in the eyes of dominant groups or that these memoirs are just an exe rcise in inclusion. Rather, as I will continue to explore in this thesis, QWOC memoirs are projects of self fashioning, o f allowing others into our worlds, but more still, they are narratives that identify and intervene into the racist, sexist, classist, q ueerphobic, fatphobic, ableist logics that structure the our lives and create the conditions that require these women (Lugones 1987, 3) . Chapter Overview In C hapter 2 Hilos of Community: On Memory, Language, and Belonging in Dais y Hernández A Cup of Water Under My Bed : A Memoir I read Hernández . Hernández early childhood to her late twenties, weaving through time and place to stitch together


24 chapters and sections that reflect on themes of migration, language, womanhood, sexuality, class, spirituality, and more. Tracing the appearance of hilo, or thread, in her memoir, I understand Hernández hilo as both a metaphorical and materi al method to theorize her subjectivity. In Chapter 2 , I explore how hilo serves as an analytic in Hernández subjectivity and I consider how this analytic may be useful for queer Latinx migrants to theorize their subjectivit ies . In the latter half of Chapter 2, I return to Audre Lorde to consider the knowledge Hernández shares through the recounting of her memories. In this section, I explore the epistemic significance of language in Hernández and writing, the colonial legacies that structure Hernández religion and spirituality, and the role of assimilation , the myth of the American Dream, and the both physical and metaphorical departures in Hernández relationship with her family. Chapter 3 Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body follows a similar organizational structure as the Chapter 2 . In the first half of the Chapter 3 to un cover the significance of memoir. Placing Hunger in conversation with queer fat studies and queer and trans as a repo sitory of memory, experience, and knowledge. I go on to explore the ways Gay refuses simplistic narratives of the self and deconstructs the implicit and internalized logics that structure her life. I posit that, in doing this, Gay offers not only her own t heorization of her subjectivity, but also a politic born of her embodied experiences.


25 In Chapter 4 , I will return to the epigraphs that began Chapter 1 reflect on the significance of A Cup of Water Under My Bed and Hunger . Considering the messiness of memory and narrative, I urge us to think of memoir as a strategy of self making and an assertion of the self against discourses and systems that silence us. As I rumin ate on the power of Hernández , I offer this thesis as a point of entry for further consideration of the myriad of ways queer women of color document and narrate our subjectivities.


26 CHAPTER 2 THREADS OF MEMORY, HILOS OF COMMUN ITY: ON MEMORY, LANGUAGE, AND A CUP OF WATER UNDER MY BED : A MEMOIR A Cup of Water Under My Bed para todas las hijas . This statem ent, para todas las hijas evokes the weight of daughterhood, its lineage, and the history it (Ahmed 2014, 11) . In her memoir, Hernández masterfully shows us how hijas, willingly or not, are shaped by generations of love, pain, language, movement, and memory. Daisy Hernández is an hija. The bisexual daughter of a Cuban father and Colombian mother, she writes about the lessons, spoken and felt, that have been passed down to her . For Hernández, as demonstrated in her memoir, writing is critical Borderlands /La Frontera my family and how (Hernández 2014, 179) . A Cup of Water Under My Bed engages with a tradition of women of color feminist life writing that uses the particularities of lived experience to reflect on and theorize about subjectivity and , a site of recognition for hijas everywhere (myself included). Explaining her dedication, lessons that were taught by our families when they collide with the dreams we have for (Vives 2014) . Reflecting on her own life experiences, Hern ández answers just that. From her position at the crossroads of cultures, Cuban, Colombian, and U.S.


27 American, Hernández identifies and explores the tensions the arise as she grapples with these different sets of expectations and traditions and reconciles her own desires within them. Ruminating on memory, love, language, spirituality, labor, and class, Hernández tackles questions of citizenship, community, and belonging. A Cup of Water Under My Bed traces Hernández through her late twenties when she decided to move away from her family to California. Hernández organizes her memoir using a loose thematic structure rather than chronology. Enclosed by a preface and an afterword, A Cup of Water Under My Bed is divided into three mai sections are self their values, p highlights considers the racialized discourses surrounding labor and class that impact Hernández, her family, and the various subjects she meets du ring her time as a journalist for The New York Times . In Chapter 2 , I will first place Hernández that theorizes on queer of color subject formation in order to analyze the strategies of narration that Hernández uti lizes to make sense of her memory and craft her subjectivity. In the latter half of Chapter 2 , I bring forward citizenship, community, and belonging can look like for a queer Latinx child of immigr ants. Stitching Memories, Crafting Subjectivity A Cup of Water Under My Bed is a stitching of memories. Writing in her own


28 thread. They can be tugged and loosened and stitched (Hernández 2014, 180) own memoir can be understood through these terms. Crafting this narrative of her life, Hernández stitches together the threads, or hilos , of memory that, like the blouses her (Hernández 2014, 21) . To do so, these threads must pierce through fabric: the fabric of a green blusa her mother sews, fabric stores where racist ladies tell Hernández and her family to speak English, fábricas that ropatriarchal citizenship that material appears many times throughout A Cup of Water and is reminiscent of call for metaphors rooted in materiali ty. Tinsley reminds 2008, 212) . Hernández, using the thread her mother and tías labor and care with, unspools her own memory. In what follows, I will explore how Hernández applies thread as both metaphor and material, rhetorical strategy and analytic, in the formation of her queer Latina subjectivity. Hija, buscame el hilo and Other Threads of Migration Colorful spools of thread, a pair of tiny scissors, and thin needles dance around long boot cut jeans, worn from being dragged under my shoes for weeks or months wh ile I insist that they are fine as they are. Finally, I have given in, agreed to be marked by the visibly hemmed jeans, the original hem cut or folded in. Mami cuts the excess thread and hands the dark blue jeans back to me. Not long after, or maybe just b efore, I am


29 una amiga de una amiga de mi mamá , or something like that. I am learning to cross stitch, knit, and sew. It is my turn to unspool the thread and create. Growing up as a 1.5 generation immigrant 1 , many of the experiences Hernández discusses resonate with my own and her decision to structure her memoir using thread her experience as a low income daughter of immigrants working in fábricas . These threads also serve as material that can connect readers with a shared migratory, class, and/or gender based experience. Meaning is etched onto thread by people whose lives are surrounded by it. For me , thread was shrouded in the fear of not belonging. It represented my inability to fit into the clothing sold at the stores where all the other girls shopped, the need to alter and mend and to do what we could with what we had. It was also saturated with g endered expectation, ones that even as a child I knew did not feel quite right. Although the meaning I attach to thread is distinct from Hernández, the way I am able to use thread to make visible tensions between my reality and the expectations that surrou theorization. These kinds of associations that thread evokes are useful to understand how the materiality of hilo can be deployed as a queer analytic to understand a shared experience of Latinx migratory identity. Th e pieces, spools, and stitches of thread in A Cup of Water Under My Bed stretch across continents through migration and persist in the diaspora. In Bogota, 1 A 1.5 generation immigrant refers to someone who is foreign born but immigrated during childhood and thus lies somewhere between 1 st generation (foreign born and immigrated in adulthood) and 2 nd generation (child of immigrants born in the country to which their parents immigrated).


30 worked. At the (Hernández 2014, 5) only town (Hernández 2014, 27) (Hernández 20 14, 66) life; it serves as a metaphor for memory beyond the conceptual realm because of its life and the lives of the wom en who shape her; it is a physical link across time and family. Responding to call to situate theory and metaphor in the material, Vanessa Aga rd sands of the Caribbean, of Martinique in particular, as carrying both material and metaphysical queer meaning and history. In Agard specific queer experience in Martin ique, sand is a material representation of what José (Muñoz 2009, 328) . Agard Jones challenges the narrative of queer invisibility that dominates the region, a narrative imposed through the postcolonial context, by positing sand as bearing witness to the queerness of the region, as the ephemera, the queer evidence, that documents queer life (Agard Jones 2012) A Cup of Water Under My Bed


31 queerness, diaspora, racialization, and coloniality is told through memory, emotion, desire, and cariño . They are experiences expressed through r egisters that go unheard in a traditional telling of history. Thread is her own form of queer evidence that documents her queer life, materializes felt knowledge, and is necessarily entangled with the racialized, migrant experiences of her family. Si le se guimos el hilo , if we follow the thread, we can uncover the generations of knowledge and history that shape Thread as M emory To understand the significance of the metaphor of thread in A Cup of Water Under My Bed , we mus t start at the end or, more aptly, the after, el después. In her final Hernández opens with a description of how her mother tailors a skirt: exams the seams, the p laces where the hilo is holding everything together, giving it shape, form, purpose. She adjusts her eyeglasses, makes her decisions, and picks up the scissors, the tiny ones that fit in the palm of her hand. The tips of the blades poke out like extra dedo s , so that for a moment my mother looks like a woman with seven fingers, two of them silver. Her hands are swift, almost brutal. She slips the silver dedos under the thread and yanks it from its place in the fabric. In English, we would say the stitching. In Spanish, however, the word is desbaratar . eyes on the hilo Desbaratandola taking apart. It is what I am doing here right now, wha t I have been doing in all the pages before. I have the story, and I am turning it inside out, laying it down on the ironing board, taking it apart with silver dedos , desbaratandola so I can put it back together again the way I want, the way that makes sen se now . (Hernández 2014, 173) s mother careful and purposeful as she takes apart the skirt at its seams, evokes a similar image of Hernández as she reworks her memory, refuses


32 the linear chronology that may have once clumsily stitched together her life and sews a narrative in queer tim e (Muñoz 2009, 25) . M uñoz theorizes queer time as sub verting (Muñoz 2009, 25) linear and promises no future aside from a normative heterosexual future. Queer time, (Muñoz 2009, 25) . For Muñoz, queer of color identity formation is based in this re jection of straight time and it is through this rejection that queers of color can imagine linear temporal logics decenter the expectations of straight time and reform her past through a logic that relation to the alternative temporal and spatial maps provided by a perception of past (Muñoz 2009, 27) . This attention to affect is essential in akes apart and puts back together the significant moments of her life in this memoir, Hernández centers emotion and relation (Hernández 2014, 173) . (Ahmed 2017, 20) . For Ahmed, feminist consciousness is difficult to grasp become part of a wider struggle, a struggle to be, to make sense of (Ahmed 2017, 20) . Throughout her memoir, Hernández situates the stories of her life within chapters, creates themes, a nd threads between them to make sense of her being. The concept of inheritance appears in the epigraph to the memoir, which


33 knowledge and history passed through thread. Delving into the archive of stories her mother has shared with her over the years in the (Hernández 2014, 21) a job at a fábrica where she marks the places where other women will sow pockets onto fábrica (Hernández 2014, 22) oung ears, too, this is a revelation. In this context, the willfulness and agency of these women to shirk any notion of traditional womanhood becomes a puncture, their voices the threaded needles that disrupt the fabric of womanhood that both Hernández and her mother had at one point believed as truth. Their voices are like threaded needles, they pierce, and they alter. They are one of the threads both Hernández and her mother come to inherit. We can return here to ffective inheritance. This thread, which stretches from the fábrica


34 fábrica in Bogota (Ahmed 2017, 73) . (Hernández 2014, 21) muñeca de trapo (Hernández 2014, 21) . Her tías (Hernández 2014, 10) (Hernández 2014, 10) . Her a repository of stories: memories (Hernández 2014, 39) . Not only are women described as being thread but also the imagery of thread and stitching appears only in proximity to women. Mothers , tías, women of the fábricas are th e ones who thread needles and pierce fabric. Men, her father in particular, deal only in unaltered fabric, they are never the agents of memory, never who stitch together, create, or heal. For Hernández, women bear the responsibility of passing knowledge an d history, they are the ones who thread her story. Even at the factory where the factory, which Hernández notably describes as a dollhouse. He spends his shifts ing broken needles and naked spools, and he carries the bundles of fabric into (Hernández 2014, 137) . Her mother, fabric, passes the nearly finished product onto another wome hilo (Hernández 2014, 21; 2014, 137) . It is her mother, and the other women in the factory, who defi ne how threads and memory are distributed.


35 embodied history of feminist resistance and point to the aspects of womanhood she should accept as part of herself, they are also marre d with the knowledge of what she should reject, distance herself from, and understand as Other. This becomes clear in Hernández had no name and no reason for the mysteriou s candy dish hidden behind the boiler. At church on Sundays she wonders why her father is never required to attend. When her tía Chuci, the library, reveals that her father does indeed have a religion and it is Santería, the open secret becomes legible to her. When Hernández apart. The box moves in spurts on the floor, but my mother sni ps at the thread and says (Hernández 2014, 49) . In this moment, her mother marks Santería as something Hernández should define herself against, something to be left unnamed, unspoken, and unincorporated into her own identity. The act of snipping at the thread then signals a rupture and a denial, the sig nificance of which I will return to in a later section. The rupture of memory, the cutting of thread, is just as necessary in the are central to not only Hernández but also her mother and tías . For these women, the cutting of thread was a necessary departure to their own subjectivities because through their experience of migration. After leaving her own mother, to labor and to migrate, (Hernández 2014, 27) . When


36 her tías (Hernández 2014, 10) breakage and come to be understood through it. It seems that this is why, when Hernández is honest with her family about her bisexuality and faces the ir rejection, the break does not cause her to cut herself off from her family. Even when she decides to move to San Francisco, her mother and tías did not challenge her or ask her to stay t those kinds of women. Maybe it was because they knew migration. Maybe it was because their own mother had let them leave home. Maybe they thought I was a piece of hilo or a word (Hernández 2014, 175) . For Hernández and her family, these ruptures, separations, and movements are an essential part of their subject formation and, despite the pain or disagreement, are necessary. Ultimately, what Hernández comes to name towards the end of her memoir is how these affective ties between women are what structure her life and define how she understands herself. Although she may have come to reconcile how, for their own reasons, the women in her life have passed down affective knowledge about gender, religion, a subjectivity is tied up with theirs. Despite the pain of their rejection and distance, for Hernández , s (Hernández 2014, 177) . Only through a temporal rearrangement of her past is Hernández able to connect the affective knowledge that has shaped her and come to envision her own queer future, a future that reckons with and cannot be disentangled from the stitches the women in her life have sowed.


37 This quo appears in the first few pages of A Cup of Water Under My Bed (Hernández 2014, 5) . It feels quite fitting to open this section because this memoir, after all, is a project of memory. It communicates, in its lyrical prose, Hernández y and for the undone (Hernández 2014, 177) . Writing, language, is how Hernández remains connected with her family and her culture and it is also how she makes their and her memories and knowledge known. Black lesbian feminis t poet Audre Lorde teaches us (Lorde 2007, 43) . In this section, through a close reading of specific chapters and excer pts from the memoir, I will explore some of the truths Hernández speaks, what she teaches us through her narrative of memory, love, and language. Language and Knowledge There are several moments in which Daisy Hernández explicitly brings up the impact of feminists and feminist theory in her life and many more where Hernández tells of the knowledge her family and community produce and disseminate. For Hernández, explicitly feminist spaces serve as mediums for her development of self and are often the sites where she becomes conscious of some of her life circumstances. What becomes clear in her memoir is that these spaces often do this through their ability to name that which she has already felt and experienced in her life, that which the women in her life already knew, and often what her mother and tías have tried so hard to teach her. Throughout A Cup of Water Hernández crafts her narrative in ways that make


38 these connections visible and in so doing engages in a form of praxis that honors the knowledges of be read as this kind of praxis, I will use selections from to elucidate this argument. I begin with an instance in which Hernández discusses feminism with her mother. I then consider the tensions between empirical and embodied knowledges in the various stories Hernández understands womanhood, particularly her own racialized, migrant womanhood. She writes stories her mother t old her and stories she recalls of her mother. The only story which does not center her mother is one where Hernández attends a feminist writing group for the first time. As she sits on a couch in a room at New York University, she listens to a South Asian (Hernández 2014, 29) (Hernández 2014, 30) . Hernández names this realization in the final pages of this chapter, after power of naming her experiences. Following this lesson in feminist storytelling, Hernández tells the story of the first time she in troduced her mother to feminism. This tradition of seminal works like This Bridge Called My Back and Sister Outsider , Hernández reveals how woman of color develop complex un derstandings of themselves


39 and their circumstances despite the Eurocentric expectation that this kind of theorizing must be empirical, academic, and written. The story begins in the kitchen. Thinking of her mother struggling at her work and the newly learn ed feminist theory she has been surrounded by, Hernández writes , other women at the factory to demand their back wages. This is what women have done (Hernández 2014, 30) . Here, as Hernández recalls her inner monologue, she believes the feminist knowledge she has read at New York University to be the authority, the kind of knowledge that her mother would not have had access too, what was her responsibility to teach her mother. In this moment, Hernánde z fails to theory she herself needed to read at a university. Later in this short story, Hernández realizes this failing on her part. As she sits, again in the kitchen, she r eads a book by Gloria Anzaldúa, presumably Borderlands/ La Frontera . Her mother, for what Hernández recalls as the first time in the 16 years she has been reading at the kitchen Hernández Spanish: I stare at her, slightly disoriented. Before I can think too much, I am racing, as women who belong to more than one land and one culture. We are neither here nor there, I conclude, almost out of breath. Ni aquí, ni alla. My mother nods. She lowers her eyes to at me, waiting for more, and the idea begins to bloom in me: my mother already knows this . (Hernández 2014, 31)


40 What becomes clear to Hernández in this moment is the knowledge her mother possesses and how, although not the written feminist theory of the academy, her mother unde rstands and knows the theories Borderlands articulates because her mother has lived them. In an ironic moment of growth and recognition, Hernández, in her newly acquired feminist consciousness, seems to finally understand the very intervention Anzaldúa ass erts in Borderlands ; that is, the significance and value of embodied forms of knowledge, meaning the ways we learn and know through lived experiences, and the necessity of recognizing and writing of this knowledge as a form of resistance to the dominant, E urocentric, frameworks that define knowledge through a presumably factual and objective frame. It is significant to note Throughout Borderlands , Anzaldúa writes a history of the border, the United States, Mex ico, and Chicanx people that is rooted in her experiences and told through poetry and prose, English and Spanish, and the material and the spiritual. Anzaldúa makes a deliberate choice to present her work in this way and it serves to further the very theor y she is developing. Many of these dualities can be interpreted as representing the (Anzaldúa 2007, 99) . English, prose, and the material signifying the dominant Anglo culture and Spanish, to write by intermixing these dualities, then, can be se en as making this consciousness material on the pages of Borderlands. In this way, we can begin to see how A Cup of Water Under My Bed follows in this tradition. In A Cup of Water Under My Bed , the


41 combination of English and Spanish can be noted throughout, in fact, even the excerpt the same way as in Borderlands : it signifies a switch not only in langua ge but in culture, in history, in ways of knowing. Hernández recalls a scene in her (Hernández 2014, 27) (Hernández 2014, 27) . Language, English in particular, appears here as a tool of access, what Hernández believes will bring her mother success. Language , , stands in for epistemic access, and f or socio political and economic achievement. As a child, Hernández understands that what happens in English is the key to U.S. American success and it is this observation that n it represents (Hernández 2014, 11) departure from her mother as well, along with their shared culture, knowledge, and history. As Hernández grows, she begins to learn the limitations of English and the value of Spanish. Hernández comes to thi s reflection in her memoir just after the scene I discussed earlier, when she speaks about Gloria Anzaldúa to her mother. She writes, theories. Without them, I might never h (Hernández 2014, 32) . In both Anzal Borderlands A Cup of Water , the Spanish and English languages appear in narratives of the particularities of their lives and remind us


42 of how English, and the epistemology it represents, fails to comprehend or articulate their embodim ent of this in ni aquí, ni alla (Hernández 2014, 31; Anzaldúa 2007, 99) . r in particular, is a form of praxis in which Hernández situates the oral storytelling tradition of her mother within her written work, retells those stories as legitimate knowledge that shaped her understanding of what it means to be a woman, and frames t hem using the linguistic tactics she has tells communicate the lessons she tries to impart on Hernández. In her memoir, Hernández tells these stories not only to detail the knowledge they produce but also to reflect on how her resistance to them in her youth shaped her understanding of self. Religion , Spirituality , & Coloniality in the Diaspora Growing up, Hernández attended Catholic School. She was surrounded by Catholic ism at school and at home. For a while, she quite liked it, she liked the catchy songs, the incense, and the lighting of candles. Her father, however, did not attend church. This was suspicious and worrisome to a young Daisy Hernández who received no expla nation for his absence. Her father was also an alcoholic who often became emotionally and sometimes physically violent. As a devout child who believed wholeheartedly in the teachings of the Catholic Church, Hernández believed she knew what caused her fathe (Hernández 2014, 38) . Her father, though, was not godless. At fourteen, she finally learns that her father does have a religion: Santería. About a year after learning of the existence of Santería, a teacher at her Catholic high


43 Catholicism shatters and, as punishment , she thinks, she is hospitalized after a car accident. In an act of cariño o the guerreros (Hernández 2014, 43) . The candy dish, and the collection of gesture, affect, memory, and epistemology it represents, creates an affective tie between her and her father, mediated by Elegguá and the o ther guerreros , and expressed through gestures of worship. Catholicism and Santería (Rodríguez 2014, 110) . Reflecting on M. secular and sacred enacts an embodied sociality that exceeds the time and plac (Rodríguez 2014 , 110) . Rodriguez points to how repeated spiritual gestural practices produce meaning, identity, and community (in similar ways to gender and sexuality). In A Cup of Water Under My Bed f worship. Even her early connection to Catholicism manifests through the gestural, what maintains her interest is the singing and the lighting candles and incense. When describing moments when she witnesses people practicing Santería, she writes about how (Hernández 2014, 46) . She notices the careful way her family places offerings and light velas for him. During her first experience participating in a ritual, she


44 is struck by how the santera (Hernández 2014, 50) . The ritual continues and Hernández writes: But for a while, it is only us and the woman, and on the floor, Elegguá in his clay dish, along with Ochosi and Oggún and the tin rooster. Ana says prayers that sound like songs, and I find myself tapping my foot to the beat. She blows tobacco smoke at Elegguá, which at first looks insulting, romantic and submissive, like a woman offering her lips to a lover . (Hernández 2014, 50) In this excerpt we can see just how significant these gestural practices fe lt to Hernández. She notes the way her foot tapped to the beat of the prayer, a gesture that sensuality and intimacy conveyed as the santera blows smoke. Hernández expresses a connection to these gestures of worship and, despite her been with me ever since I can remember, since before the saints on the radiator, since (Hernández 2014, 45) . Over a decade been from her family, but she seeks out a santera , Yvette, for comfort and advice. Recalling the first time she met Yvette, she writes about the familiar gestures of worship, the candles, the flowers, and the cups of water (Hernández 2014, 67) . These gestures mark community, an embodied sociality that is entangled in memory and history. As Hernández reflects on these experiences in her memoir, she writes about coming across academic writings about Santería. In her memoir, in a style reminiscent


45 imagines the history of Santería with the narrative below: When the white men arrived in Africa, they failed to see the gods. They beat the Yorubans, shoved them onto ships, across the oceans, and never suspected that the holy ones were heading for Cuba, too. Once they realized it, that the o rishas had arrived in the Americas the Yorubans drummed and danced and sang, the spirits came down and took hold of their heads and wrists and feet the Spaniards forbade their practice of the religion. They thought they could outsmart Elegguá. of the day. I can imagine dusk crawling across the sugarcane Babalú Ayé, but how? Where and when? Someone call him San Lázaro. Like Babalú Ayé in the Yoruban stories, the Catholic santo has open sores on his legs. And, so, the woman procures a small statue. She places San Lázaro on a table in her shac k, offers the santo frutas y tabaco and begs for mercy. She can pray freely now and not worry about breaking the law. It began like this perhaps: The saint in public and the orisha in secret. The bleeding Jesus in the living room and Elegguá in the baseme nt. And high above our heads, the tin rooster my mother keeps above the kitchen cupboard: "sun, the one who brings messages when your life is in danger . (Hernández 2014, 48) Santería, as Hernández reminds us, is a product of the colonial encounter. It carries the weight of this history and those who practice it remember, translate, and pass down that history through gesture. Considering the aesthetic of San Lázaro with his tortured body palpable: only a man who has suffered like this can know what we need and keep us (Hernánde z 2014, 46) . This statement reflects the impact of not only the colonial encounter that led to the formation of Santería but also the suffering of generations of Afro Cubans and now migrants, separated by time, water, and land who carry with them these


46 bound up with the historical haunting of affective residue, that which is unseen but (Rodríguez 2014, 107) . Hernández, through her writing, makes visible in the to mark and impact the lives of diasporic Cuban subjects, and the forms of community that are born of survival. The American Dream of Successful Alienation Throughout Hernández childhood , people would always tell her she was going where I am going, but they are sure that a place is waiting for me. By the time I am nine (Hernández 2014, 141) . Hernández knows, from an early age, that just as her mother, father, and tías had to leave their families, she would need to leave as well; l eaving was part of the deal, part of the migration and upward mobility that defined her life . Throughout her memoir, Hernández explores the conflict between the success she was expected to attain, the American Dream she was oriented toward, and her desire to remain connected words or behave como una india (Hernández 2014, 119) . In other words, it was a white, rich, assimilated place, the place that meant success. Hernández was co nstantly being pushed toward this place and it required leaving behind her family to become the financially secure, assimilated American they could not become. Queer Phenomenology (2006) to explore Hernández is constantly oriented towards. Ahmed enters the phenomenological question of orientation through


47 her interest in sexual orientation . However, as she explores , theorizing about orientati on is useful to understand all relations, sexual or otherwise. Expanding on her theorization of orientations, Ahmed writes: some ways rather than others, through the very requi rement that we follow what is already given to us. For a life to count as a good life, then it must return the debt of its life by taking on the direction promised as a social points a long a life course. A queer life might be one that fails to make such gestures of return . (Ahmed 2006, 21) upward mobility and assimilation that Hernández describes throughout A Cup of Water Under My Bed . Ahmed writes that migration produces its own kind of orientation, one that is torn in opposing directions, both (Ahmed 2006, 10) . As migrants, Hernández embod ies this migrant orientation, longing for home, Cuba for Hernández r and Colombia for her mother, while also seeking to create a home for Hernández in the United States, knowing that they will always exist in a liminal space of disorientation in place (Ahmed 2006, 10) . If, as Ahmed explains, to live a good life one must orient oneself towards social good, He rnández , as the daughter of migrants, toward the creation of home , citizenship, and normative belonging . At various points throughout A Cup of Water Under My Bed , Hernández explores how class, race, and labor shape her migrant famil ies experience in the United States . As Hernández describes, these forces create the conditions that define her families lucha and positions her family as the antithesis to the American D ream she is mean t to represent and achieve. Hernández Drea m is defined


48 by the ways her family disorients and is disoriented by the institutions and places they inhabit. In the third and final section of A Cup of Water , , Hernández focuses on her father and his lucha class, migrant, and racialized histories that have shaped his and life. This metonymy, hands that labor, people who labor, reminds us of th e swift and meticulous hands of the women in Hernández chapter, Hernández barriers, racialized and gendered labor practices, and the ebbs a nd flows of U.S. trade As a child, Hernández becomes the interpreter, the translator and the access point for her parents to U.S. American employment and social supports. Factories call . Hernández pi cks u p. T hey ask for her fathe r. S he takes a message : (Hernández 2014, 138) . S he relays the message in Spani sh. It goes on like this, messages and report cards and dentists , and unemployment offices, all the moments when Hernández is the bridge between her parents and the English speaking world around them. Through these experiences, Hernández learns that she is meant to escape this life in translation, leaving her family and what she has known all her life behind in the process. Reflecting on a moment when she drops her father off at an unemployment office before going to a college microeconomics class, Hernánde z writes : me. I am to avoid manual labor, to graduate from college, to work with white people, to earn enough money to buy a house in a white neighborhood. I am to be one of those people who say they are of Hispanic heritage, who say they grew up in difficult circumstances, who


49 see the assimilation of one person as the progress of a community . (Hernández 2014, 143) In this scene, Hernández quite literally orients her body away from her father and all he represents. Through this orient ation, Hernández illustrates how b ecoming more assimilated, distancing herself from her family, her class background, the forms of labor her family was accustomed to, and the places where her family lived were all essential to the American Dream, the progr ess Hernández For Hernández , though, leaving her family was not so simple. This departure developed into a deep desire to return, one reflected in her attachment to Santeria, her return to Spanish, and her connection to feminist theory that explained her feeling of in betweenness. Hernández constantly attempts to reorient herself and tells us that this desire to return i s born out of the push to leave . She writes : It is a story as old as time, that we always find what we needed w as right at home. But, therein is the riddle: a child has to leave to return. My mother had to. She says it often. She only appreciated her mother, only understood her mother, after she had left home. I had to leave, too. It was me, not my mother, who need ed English, who needed the stories and feminist theories. Without them, I might never have come back to her . (Hernández 2014, 31 32) There are so many of stories that remind me of my own, so many reasons to choose this memoir for study. I certainly relate to her recounting of be ing a symbol of upward mobility and serving as a linguistic and cultural bridge. But it is, perhaps, this riddle that was most central in my decision to select this memoir for analysis. I am no stranger to this riddle, leaving and returning are bound up in my migrant family as well. Some of us create new homes here and others long to return. We know that oftentimes leaving is the only way to move forward .


50 The challenge for the queer daughter , though , for both Hernández and I, lies in this orientation forward. When forward is the mythical American Dream , queerness is antithetical to its manifestation . Although we are meant to orient ourselves away from our family in many ways, o ur departure from heteronormativity is no t a welcome one. It will not move us forward. Although we have been trained to leave, this rupture does not orient us correctly, does not poise us for success, or allow us to return the debt of our life by the promise of social good (Ahmed 2006, 21) . Further still, queerness orients us away even from the homes that have been lost. This becomes apparent in A Cup of Water Under My Bed when Hernández mother reacts with shock when Hernández comes out to her. Describing this moment, Hernández recounts the conversation with her mother . never heard of this. This does Hernández replies, You seven years But I never saw anything like this there (Hernández 2014, 84) . In this interaction, Hernández ther turns toward life in Colombia, in the home lost, to disparage Hernández then this is the fault of assimilation to the United States. Returning to formulation of th e migrant orientation, queerness is disorienting to both the home lost (Colombia) and the not yet home (United States) . Queerness , then, is its own kind of departure for the queer daughter and orients us toward a new, unimagined future. This kind of orien tation, though, is familiar in its liminality, reminiscent of the precarious orientation of our migrant parents. For the queer daughter, the lost home is t he imagined U.S. American one that never was, and the not -


51 yet home is a yet to be explored queer futu re. Both the queer daughter and the migrant are oriented toward an unknown, unwritten future. Migrant orientation, then, can be understood as its own kind of queer orientation , one with the potential for unimagined possibilities . I relate the potential of this queer migrant orientation to Hernández child must leave to return. M uch like Hernández queer and migrant orientations are malleable, they can bend and stretch , fray and mend in new directions. It is that adaptability, born of migrant memory and embodied experience, that teaches the child of migrants the potential of this kind of coming and going. Hernández , for instance, remains connected to her family, even those who do not understand or accept her queerness because she and t hey both understand the necessity of this kind of queer orientation , of leaving . As Hernández remind s us , (Hernández 2014, 177) . Rather, i t is through the fraying and mending of those stitches, all those memories of leaving while still remaining attached, that her connections to her family are able withstand the disorientation of queerness and she is able to produce her own subjectivity. It is the healing power of these memories of migration that allow q ueer hi j as, like Hernández and me, to leave and to return , to unspool thread in new directions , and to create homes in spaces that are disoriented by our presence .


52 CHAPTER 3 HUNGER: A MEMOIR OF (MY) BODY When I first read Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body the summer after I graduated from college, I felt a profound connection to Gay and the intimate story she shared. I remember listening to Roxane Gay narrate the audiobook, completely encapsulated by her storytelling, reluctant to press pause or take a break until I had listened to it all. I have read Hunger several times since that first instance and it never fails to evoke this feeling; it is one that I find difficult to name but is certainly a form of intimacy and recognition . I remember reading the opening pages to Hunger and knowing that I had found something special and it was finding me right back. Framing the narrative she will tell in this memoir, Gay begins o ne of the first chapters of Hunger by writing : The story of m y body is not a story of triumph. This is not a weight loss memoir. There will be no picture of a thin version of me, my slender body t will offer motivation. I body and unruly appetites. Mine is not a success story. Mine is, simply, a true story . (Gay 2017, 4) This notion of her true story, one that sits in direct opposition to the narrat ives of thinness as success and value that I had consumed my entire life, was the first time I read something so profoundly true to me, something that, despite being distinct from my life, in many ways was telling my own true story. This feeling was one I would come to recognize again and again in graduate school through the work of women of color feminists like Gloria Anzaldúa , Audre Lorde, Cheryl Clarke, María Lugones, Sara Ahmed, and Juana María Rodríguez . This feeling was certainly one of recognition, o f connection, of seeing myself emblazoned across their pages. But what was even more particular about these works was their ability to create theory through these experiences


53 and moments of recognition. These women, from Anzaldúa to Lorde to Gay, not only provided experiences of identification but also created moments of politicized consciousness raising all based in their own embodied realities. In reading their truths, I began to uncover my own. For queer women of color, identity and subjectivity are com plex processes that require a reckoning with the internal and external world and the processes of racialization and sexualization we interact with every day. They require the redefinition of what it means to be a woman, a person of color, a queer person, a nd all the other predetermined scripts we have been socialized into and often internalized. Hunger , like the works of other women of color feminists, invites us to join Roxane Gay in saying: finally freeing myself to be vulnerable and terribly human. Here I am, reveling in that freedom. Here. See what I hunger for and what my truth has allowed me (Gay 2017, 304) . In its critique of cultural discourses of race, gender, sexuality, and body size Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body evokes a tradition of woman of color feminist life wr iting that assert s complexity against flattening discourses that position queer, fat, Black women, as abject and one dimensional. In Chapter 3 , I first analyze the structure and strategies of narration Gay employs throughout Hunger , which, rather than using time as its guiding structure, uses the body as an analytic to trace her experiences. This structure, I contend, is a significant intervention that highlights the value of the body as a repository of knowledge and memory (Moraga and Anzaldúa 2015) . In the latter half of Chapter 3 , I conduct a close reading of Hunger to discuss the particular cultural critiques Gay explores and the politic


54 she asserts. Through her life writing, Gay asserts her own politic that cha llenges the internalized logics that underpin her life experiences and provides a framework for identifying the same in our own. Hunger , then, functions as a site of recognition and consciousness raising for those who see themselves in her narrative and/or are mobilized by the injustices Gay articulates. Roxane Gay is an acclaimed author with an impressive archive of work. Her writing takes a variety of forms including fiction, memoir, non fiction, short story, comic book, anthology, and more. Her books i nclude her debut and recently re released collection of short stories, Ayiti (2011), her novel An Untamed State (2014) , New York Times bestseller Bad Feminist (2014) , national bestseller Difficult Women (2017) , and New York Times bestseller Hunger: A Memoi r of (My) Body (2017) . In addition to these works, Gay has also written Black Panther World of Wakanda (2016) for Marvel and edited anthologies Not That Bad (2018) and The Best American Short Stories (2018) (Gay 2019c) . Gay is also the founder of Tiny Hardcore Press, which she started while an Assistant Professor of English at Eastern Illinois University (EIU). Gay left EIU to become an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Purdue University, a position she (Bangert 2018) winning author Tressie (Ma gazine 2019; Gay 2019a) body of work and critical acclaim has garnered her a celebrity like following, as evidenced in her large Twitter following and presence with over 600,000 followers, and


55 (Gay 2019b) . Throughout Chapter 3, Hunger: Memoir of (My) Body (2017), using queer and trans of color scholarship to ground my analysis. Hunger was her book Bad Feminist and was a long awaited and delayed book. In an interview at the 2017 National Book Festival, Gay reflects on her reluctance to write this memoir, stating that it took Hunger, but three years to start writing Hung (Roxane Gay | Season 1 Episode 6 | Breaking Big | PBS 2018) . Gay echoes this throughout her memoir as she writes about Hunger (Gay 2017, 4) . In Hunger , Gay ruminates on her life as a fat person, a victim of childhood sexual assault, a Black, bi sexual woman, a writer, and a daughter. Her memoir is not bound to a particular part of her life or series of events but rather explores how her body exists in the world and how her experience of trauma at an early age has impacted her life. Gay writes 88 chapters of a variety of lengths, from one or two sentences to essay length chapters, and she splits these chapters into six sections. There are no chapter or section titles, chapters are numbered 1 88, and sections are titled using roman numbers: I VI. Al though there is no clear description of the chapters or sections, as I have read and re read memoir , I have developed my own loose themes for each section: I) framing (my) body II) creating (my) body III) commentary on (my) body IV) modifying (my) body V) relationships with (my) body V) healing with (my) body . In section I, Gay provides context for her approach to her memoir. She writes about what


56 her body looks like, what it does for her, how she feels about her body and she gestures towards some of the de fining moments in her life that she returns to later in the memoir. Section II is the most chronological part of the book. Gay recounts childhood memoires, writes about the boys who raped her as a child, and how she worked to create a larger body for herself in an effort to protect herself. This is the longest section in Hunger and d through her twenties. Section III focuses on the public spectacle of the fat body, the reality TV shows that are created in an effort to tame the body, the commentary and advice offered by friends, family, and strangers alike, and the shame that gaze ind uces. In section IV, Gay writes about the ways she has attempted to alter her body: dieting, exercising, clothes and fashion, tattoos and the pain of living in her body when it refuses to be modified to fit into our world. Section V lationships and the ways her body informs those relations. She writes about cooking and food as culture, sexuality and dating, gender and visibility, and her life as a public figure. In the final section, VI, Gay describes ways she is both physically, ment ally, and socially healing with her body. From experiences with healthcare professionals to looking up her assailant as an adult, Gay explores her process of continual healing. These descriptions and interpretive section titles are my own effort to organiz s ambiguous is intentional. When asked about the form of the book in an interview with Chelsea playing with structure and form and really trying to (Yedinak 2016, 76 77) . I understand this deconstruction of structure and form, along with the vulnerable and complex content


57 that permeates through the memoir, as a feminist intervention and resistance to the traditional form of memoir that scholars of the genre, like G. Thomas Couser, document (Couser 2012) 1 . This intervention mirrors what the women of color feminists who came before Gay implemented through academic texts, anth ologies, and poetry in texts like This Bridge Called My Back or Sister Outsider. Writing on the Body and of the Body Memoirs often include two timelines in their narrative, one of the past self and one of the present self the older, wiser voice that clar ifies and provides context (Birkerts 2008, 6) . In his book The Art of Time in Memoir, Sven Birkerts explains that it is the bridging of these two timelines that gives memoir its distinct perspective. Gay employs this strategy throughout Hunger, including narrative from her perspective as a child or young adult and the n writing commentary from her current perspective using (Gay 2017, 47) . Similarly, queer fat studies scholar Elena Levy Navarro writes about the need to queer fat history through a reworking of straight temporal logics of history. In Fattening Queer History , Levy needs to queer that modern temporal relationship (Levy Navarro 2009, 21) histories creatives write about, Levy occupy times that go athwart of or across the linear time of cause and effect that is currently use 1 Logan Neser, a fellow graduate student in my program, very insightfully pointed out that this structu re may also be a strategic choice to require the reader to engage with the book fully, without preconception, deter the use of sections of the memoir out of context, and perhaps even make it more difficult for scholars (like me) to write about particular a spects of the book.


58 erasure of straight temporal logics, a task we can see memoir is particularly equipped to handle (Levy Navarro 2009, 19) Hunger effectively rejects those organizing logics that render fat histories illegible. In Hunger, however, Gay complicates these temporal logics even further by centering the body as the organizing structure of the memoir. This organizing structure appears even in the title of the book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. As the title alludes, Hunger is not just about interiority, as memoirs often are. Instead, it is about both about what her body can tell us Hunger is critical because it reminds us that our bodies carry and produce meaning. Hunger centers the knowledge our bodies create and explor es how our understanding of self is entangled in our embodiment. In doing this, Gay not only rejects the linear chronology that is understood to structure our lives but also asserts the memory of the body and the material. For Gay, the body, her body, serv es as an epistemology. It is a legitimate, intimate, and critical source of knowledge upon which she calls to understand herself . approach to the body as knowledge is akin to Black lesbian feminist poet and scholar the erotic. As Lorde describes, the erotic is far more than the sexual ; it is an empowering , embodied knowledge that allows us as women to situate ourselves in the world (Lorde 2007, 57) . I understand the use of the body as the structuring logic of Hunger as The literary critic of memoir that considers a structure most closely resembling what Gay does in Hunger , Birkerts, still maintains a dichotomy bet ween mind and body, focusing on the rejection


59 of the linearity of time but still maintaining that making sense of time, memory, and the self, remains a project of the mind (Birkerts 2008) . Rather than analyzing this structure through the lens of genre, I find that employing Black and Women of Color feminist theory as a lens of analysis p rovides a more specific and apt analysis of Hunger. Considering Black and Women of Color feminist theory, and Lorde in particular, as a foundational element of Hunger, I turn again to us: I think, therefore I am. T he Black mother within each of us the poet whispers in (Lorde 2007, 38) . Just as Lorde asserts, Hunger insists on the body, on what can be felt, as the avenue to what can be known, healed, free. Black queer and trans scholars, like Tinsley, theorize about materiality and Black subjectivity, expanding upon the work of Black feminists like Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, and Patricia Hill Collins. These scholars contend that Black subjectivity cannot be understood without an attention to the material. The experiences of Black subjects are shaped by access or lack thereof to material, by their bodies being treated as material, by what they create from the material that they can access; these experiences in turn craft their subjectivity. C. Riley Snorton reminds us of how the Black body has been reduced to and used as raw material (and the possibilities Black people created out of it) (Snorton 2017) Tinsley and Vanessa Agard Jones make explicit the need to root our understanding of Bla ck subjectivity, particularly for Black queer subjects, in the material and to not lose sight of that in the face of white queer theory that is less attentive to the material (Omise Jones 2012) . Materiality is ever present


60 across generations of Black and Black queer subjects, documenting what is undocumented through Eurocentric epistemologies that submerge the histories that craft Black subjectivity. body through experiences quite explicitly situates her memoir as an exploration of embodied knowledge. Rather than write in any chronological way, Gay structures her memoir through experiences of the body, moving around in time and space, sometimes spendin g entire chapters on bodies that are not her own as she writes, but still always rooted firmly in the material. This focus on the materiality of her body positions the body as a repository for affect and memory, marked by the fat, bruises, manipulations, a nd (Gay 2017, 41) . before and the after. Before I gained weight. After I gained weight. Before I was raped. (Gay 2017, 14) . Ra ther, Gay presents her narrative primarily in the after and tells it through the ebbs and flows of her embodiment. Throughout her memoir, Gay writes about the ways her body is marked by inhospitable environments. She writes: My thighs have been bruised, more often than not, for the past twenty four years. I cram my body into seats that are not meant to accommodate me, and an hour or two or more later, when I stand up and the blood rushes, then remember, yes, I sat in a chair with arms. Other times, I catch a brief glance of myself in the mirror, maybe while wrapping a towel around my body, and I see the pattern of bruising inching from my waist down to my


61 midthigh. I see how physical space s punish me for my unruly body . (Gay 2017, 202) These material markers of strain on her body, bruising, blood rushing, and pain, are the ephemera that linger after experiences where her body does not fit within the confines of our social space, physical manifestations of both the physical and psycho social incompatibility. Her body tells her story. Vanessa Agard Jones theorizes on the ephemeral knowledge of the material and presenting the sands of the Caribbean, of Martinique in particular, as carrying both mate rial and metaphysical queer meaning and history. In Agard the regionally specific queer experience in Martinique, sand is a material representation of what José Esteban Muñoz (Agard Jones 2012, 328) . Agard Jones challenges the narrative of queer invisibility that dominates the region by positing sand as b earing witness to the queerness of the region, as the ephemera, the queer evidence, that documents queer tep on my feet. They brush and bump against me. They run straight into me. I am highly visible, but I am regularly treated like I am invisible. My body receives no respect or consideration or (Gay 2017, 208) . In this quote, Gay describes how people interact physically with her to make visible the meaning others make of her body. The ephemera, the knowledge and documentation of these social relations, then, can be understood as those bruises and scars that are left


62 behind. They assert her existence and experience of the world again st the ways in which she is made or treated as invisible. In Hunger , Roxane Gay writes about how her body is gendered (or not) in a way theorization of captive flesh and the ungendering of Black women to argue that our current system of sex and gender is born out of the context of chattel slavery and the Black flesh it produced. Within this sex/gender system, Blackness is rendered illegible and mutable: queer. When Gay gender. I am a woman, but they do not see me as a woman she adds a dimension to (Gay 2017, 256) . Through her own experiences living in her body, Gay tells us how this ungendering shows up in her interactions. If we follow Spillers and Snorton, it may b e that the ungendering and and gendered logics that emboldened those boys to assault her. Gay gestures towards this theorization when she recounts her rape in Hunger. As she writes about the boys flesh and girl bones (Gay 2017, 42) . As Gay Gay is denied humanity and refused agency. Her body is no longer her own but rather becomes fles h to be manipulated. modern world, what modernity comes to be defined against. In that proces s, Black people found ways to use the material of their bodies to create new possibilities for


63 themselves, finding escape and performing freedom through the material of their bodies. In this context, Gay sought to protect herself from the dehumanization sh e experienced, finding potential through her flesh, building upon it to create what felt like escape but arriving still at an embodiment marked by excess. After her assault, Gay searches for a way to heal. She writes: What I did know was food, so I ate be cause I understood that I could take up more space. I could become more solid, stronger, safer. I understood, from the way I saw people stare at fat people, from the way I stared at fat people, that too much weight was undesirable. If I was undesirable, I could keep more hurt away . (Gay 2017, 15) Gay understood fatness as inherently undesirable , a product of the culture she was raised in that taught her that to be fat was to be deviant, to be less. At twelve years old, her body was something she could control, something she could change to avoid the kind of suffering she was afraid to feel again . Describing this experience further, Gay writes about the body she now inhabits, focusing again on the flesh and material of her body: This is the body I made. I am corpulent rolls of brown flesh, arms and thighs and belly. The fat eventually had nowhere to go, so it created its own paths around my body. I am riven with stretch marks, pockets of cellulite on my massive thighs. The fat created a new body, one that shamed me but one that made me feel safe, and more than anything, I desperately needed to fee l safe. I needed to feel like a fortress, impermeable. I did not want anything or anyone to touch . (Gay 2017, 16) In a similar fashion as the bruises and physical markers of her childhood abuse. They carry the kn owledge of her past while simultaneously being subject to racialized histories of fatness. Despite her best efforts marked by racialized and gendered discourses that ca use her harm.


64 expression of excess, decadence, and weakness. The obese body is a site of massive infection. It is a losing battleground in a war between willpower and food and metabolism in (Gay 2017, 122) . In her book Fearing the Black Body : The Racial Origins of Fatphobia, Sabrina Strings writes about the bodies and the policing of racial and gendered boundaries for white women. Thinness as the ideal aesthe tic for women formed in the eighteenth century through the (Strings 2019, 122) . As Strings documents, enforcing thin ideals on white women served as a way to mark white (Strings 2019, 67) . Biopolitical tool s that created a normalized and ideal weight were targeted towards white women who held the responsibility of propagating the superiority of the white race and maintained the oppression of Black women and racial Others through an association with laziness, (Strings 2019, 84) . For Strings, fatness and fatphobia are intrinsically racialized cultural constructions. The racialized and gendered element s of fatness are vi sible in tropes historically assigned to Black women. As Patricia Hill Collins writes, the images of the mammy,


65 of Black womanhood [ that ] form a nexus of elite white ma le interpretations of Black (Collins 2000, 84) . These images are in conversation with the history that Strings writes about and police racial and gendered boundaries along with fatphobia. dark, and with characteristically African features in brief, as an unsuitable sexual partner f o (Collins 2000, 84) . Fatness, in this context, is deployed to mark a lack of sexual desirability for white men, in parti cular , further defining and maintaining racial, gendered, and economic oppression (Collins 2000, 84) . In Hunger, Gay illustrates, through the story of her body and her perception that fatness would be the key to safety from men, how racialized and gendered logics that underpin fatphobia persist today and continue to mark her body and bodies like hers. (My) Body, her Body, the Body Thinking back to the title o Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body , I as indexing her relationship to her body and how she attends to her body within the particular form of her memoir. As I follows the narratives of her body, and at times, narratives of bodies not her own. It is in these chapters where Gay steps back from the material of her body and towards the material of the bodies of others that I begin to understand at least one of the purposes of this parenthetical. In the second chapter of Hunger , Gay writes: This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions . They think they know the why of my body. They do not. This is not a story of triumph, but this is a story that demands to be told and deserves to be heard . (Gay 2017, 5)


66 In this excerpt, Gay tells us about how her body and its story is taken from her, the ways (Gay 2017, 208) . For Gay, her body often is not inf ormation in the sentences that construct her story. The parenthesis in the title gesture towards the conditional nature of her possession over her own body but, unlike is no longer complete. Although her body is taken from her, the story of her body is incomplete without recognizing her agency, her desire, her hunger. section III of Hunger. I n this section, Gay spends 12 chapters writing about the fat body as a matter of public debate. She writes first about the ways her body becomes of a problem her family needs to fix and then moves outwards towards cultural critic, spending several chapters on reality TV shows, weight loss programs, celebrities, and chapters, Gay writes: many respects. Your body is constantly and prominently on display. People project assumed narratives onto your body and are not at all commentary is often couched as concern , as people only having your best interests at heart. They forget that you are a person. You are your body, nothing more, and your body should damn well become less . (Gay 2017, 120 21) dehumanized, excessive, and on display provides further detail on the parenthetical Here, Gay traces public reactions and commentary of bodies denied agency and


67 provides essential context to her own story. For Gay, especially as a writer who specializes in cu ltural commentary, it is not possible to fully tell her story without revealing the discourses that shape her experiences. The story of her body is her own, but it is not just hers. By tracing the material of her fat body, she also tells the story of other bodies like hers, ones that are bound up in the same discourses of thinness and health that dehumanize Gay. The commentary people make about her body that she concern The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love. Discussing the ways strangers pathologize and make comments about the health of fat people on the internet, Taylor wri tes: health based simply on their weight (or photo on social media), it is likely about the ways in which we exp ect other bodies to conform to our standards and beliefs about what a body should or should not look lik e. (Taylor 2018, 21) For Taylor, the public commentary on the fat body is about disciplining the excess of the fat body, it is a reflection of a culture that requires bodies to submit to standardization. In a Foucauldian sense, shaming becomes a biopolitical tool to create standardized, docile bodies (Foucault 2003) . This becomes all the more ev ident in media portrayals of fat bodies, as Gay comments in section III of Hunger. analyzing My 600 lb Life the excess, the mounds of flesh. The surgeries are graphic, and we see insides, globules of fat being shoved aside by medical instruments, as the obese body is (Gay 2017, 133) . Notably, Gay is not saying that this


68 gratuitous display brings healing but rather brings the body to heel, brings the body under control. Health is not the aim of these reality shows that want to lessen the excess of the fat body. Writing about another one of these reality TV shows, The Biggest Loser, Gay notes, by any means necess ary, so that through that discipline, the obese might become more (Gay 2017, 128) . It may seem unnecessary to spend so much time, an entire section of her memoir, shifting from an account of her body to a cultural critique of TV shows and weight loss programs, but comments like this one shape her life. Sonya Renee Taylor writes: Living in a female body, a Black body, an aging body, a fat body, a body with mental illness is to awaken daily to a planet that expects a certain set . (Taylor 2018, 11) Taylor, like Gay, makes explicit the ways meaning is mappe d onto bodies and how that meaning tells us how to value ourselves and others. In structuring Hunger as an exploration of body, Gay centers her embodiment, her body as a site of knowledge and meaning making, her body as a standpoint from which to understan d the logics of the world around her, and bodies like hers as shaped and impacted by these logics. Being Gay and/or Being gay Throughout her memoir, Gay complicates the one dimensional narratives circulated about what it means to live in a body like hers, what it means to exist as a fat, Black, queer, woman. By writing about her life, she refuses the flattening of it and allows


69 (Gordon 2008, 4) . Although, today, Gay considers herself bisexual and is engaged to a woman, when she was in her twenties, many years after suffering the sexual trauma that changes her life, Roxane Gay first came out to her family as gay. Her journey to identification and r ecognition was a long one that is complicated by her childhood sexual trauma, her relationship to her family, and her misconceptions about what it means to be gay. Reflecting on this experience she writes: e. I was and am attracted to attracted to both women and men and be part of this world. And, in those early days, I enjoyed dating women and having sex with them, but also, I was t errified of men. The truth is always messy. I wanted to do everything in my power to remove the possibility of being with men from my life. I again. I needed to never be hurt agai n . (Gay 2017, 236 37) out narrative disrupts Eurocentric notions of what it means to come out. In Hunger becomes a complex space of identifi (Muñoz 1999) . In this excerpt, Gay allows herself to sit in this contested space with her desires and her traumas and comes to an identification that is wrought with contradiction and exactly right for her in that moment. An Archive of Feelings lesbian


70 identification. As Cvetkovich details, the cultural discourse that links lesbianism and sexual trauma, which suggests that sexual trauma causes lesbianism, often leads to an ir lesbian experience and identity. Cvetkovich argues that the adamant separation of queerness and sexual trauma comes from the implicit association of queerness as the negative outcome of sexual trauma (Cvetkovich 2003, 91) . Her formulation, instead, urge s us to consider how queerness can be a positive and welcome result of sexual trauma. To view queerness through this lens, then, attends to the therapeutic process that may be involved in coming to queerness. Cvetkovich writes: As someone who would go so far as to claim lesbianism as one of the welcome effects of sexual abuse, I am happy to contemplate the therapeutic process by which sexual abuse turns girls queer. I introduce the word queer to suggest the unpredictable connections between sexual abuse an d its effects, to name a connection while refusing determination or causality. Queerness militates against the neatness of a heterosexual/homosexual binarism that might, for instance, indicate that a change of object choice could heal the trauma of sexual abuse . (Cvetkovich 2003, 90) For Cvetkovich, lesbian cultural production is a medium through which a deep and complex reckoning with trauma takes place, one that allows for the often messy relationship between sexual trauma and queerness and that refuses t he pathologizing narrative that usually accompanies it, particularly for lesbians. As she writes, queerness brokenness from sexual trauma causes her lesbianism. In this way, I vi ew Hunger as asserting a similar kind of queer politic as the lesbian public culture that Cvetkovich analyzes, one that rejects a fixed, linear logic of healing. In her memoir, Gay makes no effort to distance her understanding of her queerness from her ex perience of childhood sexual abuse. In fact, Gay makes a point to


71 write about how the trajectory of her queerness was linked to her rape. When she despite knowing she experienced attraction to men, Gay writes about how, for her , being a lesbian was as much about being with women as it was about being distanced from men. In her twenties, when she first starts dating women, she also takes up various other nonnormative sexual practices. She writes, for instance, of learning of the BDSM community: In IRC chat rooms, I talked to people in the BDSM community, and I learned about safe, sane, and consensual sexual encounters, where power was exchanged, but you could have a safe word to make things stop when you wanted them to stop. I le arned that there were people who would take the right kind of no as no, and that was powerful, intoxicating. I wanted to know so much more about safe ways to say no . (Gay 2017, 91 92) Here, the language of BDSM, much like her initial decision to date women, becomes a way for her to assert control over her body and her safe ty. In this excerpt, Gay recognizes the healing potential of BDSM in its communicative exchanges of power. As Gay reflects on her queerness, she draws a connection between her trauma, her (Cvetkovich 2003, 89) . These connections are ones that most accounts of trauma would avoid or refuse because the non normativity of these sexual practices further distances the victim from a normative path of healing and p erformance of subjectivity. In Hunger , however, Gay allows these complexities to exist fully and, much like Cvetkovich, deploys them as a mode for her own healing. Of course, as Gay recognizes and recounts in her memoir , being solely with women could not a ctually protect her from harm. With this recognition, Gay invokes a queer politic that rejects the binary logic that would place lesbianism as either the consequence of sexual assault or the solution to further violence. If the conventional, medical, pathological, path to


72 healing, as I will return to in the conclusion , entails returning to a normative, heterosexual, able bodied destination, then Gay writes a different methodology for queer healing, one that allows for queerness to appear in all of its fluidity and messiness. provides an intimate look at what José Esteban Muñoz (Muñoz 1999) . As Muñoz describes, identification is a complex process, especially for queers of color who are marginalized at multiple axis. Identification, for these subjects, can mean assimilating to dominant ideology, resistin g it entirely, or disidentifying. Muñoz writes that (Muñoz 199 9, 11) . Notably, this tactic of self making is one critical to queer of color critique, a field of study that has its roots in Black and women of color feminist theory (Ferguson 2003) . As an integral component of queer of color critique, disidentification serves as a tool for political, theoretical, self, and utopic projects. Disidentification allows subjects queers of color in ve queer life (Muñoz 1999, 31 34 ) . When Gay came out as gay, the language of identification available to her was incompatible with her subjectivity. Gay, as a Black, fat, Haitian woman and victim of sexual violence, exists outside the dominant imprint, as Muñoz would say, of a gay su bject (Muñoz 2009) . As a victim of sexual abuse, one still struggling with t he pain of this trauma, a process I will revisit later on , desire was never meant to be within reach. Dominant categories of sexual identity could not provide access to a clear truth so


73 molding it into something resembli ng her own desire, allowed for a space to further develop her own subjectivity. In this process of disidentification, Gay reveals how LGBTQ identity categories are fluid and self defined and how the process of coming out is not always the revelation of som e grand Truth about the self. Rather, Gay constructs herself and her identity using the tools, information, and language she has available to her. Just as, for a variety of reasons, gay identity was an imperfect fit for Gay and coming out was not the perce ived confession of her deepest self, claiming a gay identity in the Caribbean and Latin America. In his book Tropics of Desire , Jos Quiroga reminds us that U.S. Amer ican and European projects of imperialism and globalization have created and maintained conditions that both silence and erase the queerness of the region. In an attempt to situate themselves as modern nations, Caribbean and Latin American countries often double down on colonizer imposed, heteronormative and patriarchal ideals in their nation building projects, masking, but not removing, queer to be decoded, submerged from public record th rough nationalistic projects and their own rejection of Eurocentric LGBTQ labels, ones that would require a loud and proud identification and make them visible to the g lobal North (Quiroga 2000) . 2 2 Thiefing Sugar and The Politics of Passion, Flaming Souls, I sland Bodies, ¡Venceremos?, Queen for a Day, and Lionel Cant s The Sexuality of Migration.


74 3 , the perception of the Caribbean and Latin America as hostile spaces for LGBTQ people reinforces racist tropes about the region as backwards, underdeveloped, and in need of intervention, tropes that harken back to the race science that defined modernity against the Black body (Snorton 2017; Strings 2019) . These histories provide context to the stereotypes that mark Caribbean and Latin American di asporic communities in the United Sta tes , stereotypes that cast these communities as especially averse to queer desire . The simplistic and racist narratives that paint Haiti, in particular, as backwards and incapable of development are, as Haitian scholar Gina Ulysse writes , actually reprodu ctions of narratives and stereotypes dating back to the nineteenth century, when, in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution, the new free black republic that ended slavery and disrupted the order of things in the world became a geopolitical pariah and our (Ulysse 2015, 61) . As Ulysse reco gnizes, these tropes are deeply entangled with globalization and the anti blackness that is foundational to our modern world. As a second generation immigrant, born in the United States to Haitian born parents, Gay is soci alized in the context of these his tories of U.S. imperialism and racism. Despite being raised by Haitian parents and living as a Haitian American, she is not immune to the messaging about Haiti and the Caribbean that surrounds her, especially in the white towns and boarding school where she grew up. The influence of these trop es that cast Caribbean people as backwards and homophobic becomes apparent in Hunger when Gay writes about the relationship 3 occupation of Palestine, as friendly image to r eframe the occupation of (Puar 2013, 337) .


75 between her coming out process and her perceptions of her own immigrant family. Gay explains that her decision to come out as gay se rved as an attempt to create distance between herself and her immigrant parents who she believed would reject her and her queerness. Struggling to heal from the trauma of her childhood and still hiding that trauma from her family, Gay writes: though that was the truth. I thought about their faith and their culture. I told them the one thing that I thought might finall y sever the bond between us. th em and how warped my understanding of queerness was . (Gay 2017, 236) In this excerpt, G her parents is rooted in assumptions about their faith and culture, she assumes that they will reject her and is then confronted with the reality of their love and support the (Gay 2017, 236) . Gay writes that she believed and internalized a n arrative about her parents that is rooted in these racist notions that paint the Caribbean and Caribbean immigrants as innately and exhaustively homophobic. In her book Thiefing Sugar: Eroticism Between Women in the Caribbean, Natasha Tinsley hig hlights the coded same writings. Through close readings of these writings, Tinsley reveals that, in contrast to perceptions that the region is particularly homophobic or that queer desire does not exist in the Caribbean, queer desire pervades the region 2010) we see a glimpse of this culture of submerged, coded queer desire ( Gay 2017, 237) . There is power in Gay sharing her story of


76 the women [she] (Gay 2017, 237) . In these short anecdotes, she challenges centuries of imperialism while speaking to the realities of socialization and assimilation in which children of immigrants internalize the stereotypes and assumptions made of their own communit ies. On being the Good daughter: Reconciling with respectability Hunger (Gay 2017) . Throughout Hunger we read about good news, good memories, good food. Gay is, and sometimes is not, a good daughter, a good Catholic daughter, a good Haitian daughter, a good so good at all but certainly say and are told so. Again, and again, Gay returns to this good/ba d dichotomy. As a rhetorical strategy, this choice of adjective gestures toward the logics of childhood, the kind of simplistic, either or logics that lead to choices that in hindsight, with time, experience, and perhaps the writing of this memoir, Gay can a fairly nondescript choice of adjective and one which Gay provides very little elaboration. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, her message actually becomes qui te clear. The broadness and generality of this repeated adjective strikes me as a deliberate choice, one that illustrates how pervasive discourses are that qualify who is, and is not, a deserving, valuable subject, how easily these discourses are taken up, even by children, and how seamlessly they inform what and who we value, ourselves Much of Western European his tory conditions us to see human differences in simplistic opposition to each other: dominant/ subordinate, good/bad, up/down, superior/ inferior. In a society where the good is


77 defined in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, there must alway s be some group of people who, through systematized oppression, can be made to feel surplus, to occupy the place of the dehumanized inferior . (Lorde 2007, 114) Hunger illustrates just how this simplistic opposition, this devaluing, impacts her understanding of self as a chi ld of immigrants and informed how she processed and responded to her rape. The good/bad framework Gay clings to throughout Hunger is all too familiar to those of us who are impacted by migration, particularly in a U.S. American context. The nt is an often evoked figure by immigrant rights activists who seek to justify the value of particular immigrants who aspire to and attempt to approximate Lisa Marie Cacho reminds us t American neoliberalism, social value and moral behavior (Cacho 2012, 19) . Cacho goes on to consider how this plays out in the valuing of the productive, economic capacity of immigrants as rationale for t heir deservingness of citizenship. This a politic that requires marginalized individuals to perform the heteronormative, white, Christian values of the nation as a strategy to attain inclusion, belonging, citizenship (Higginbotham 1994, 187; Cacho 2012, 5) . In Hunger, to achieve personhood, how to be a deserving subject. S norton, Spillers, and Taylor all in varying ways remind us that to be Black, to be a Black woman, to be Other, is to exist outside of conceptions of the human, how, then, does a young Black, Haitian, girl seek to create herself?


78 One of the few times Gay in her description of what it means to be a Haitian daughter. For Gay, being a Haitian daughter came with its set of expectations, ones informed by culture, history, and the gaze of the global North. Addressing what it means to her to be Haitian American, Gay writes: The only way I know of moving through the world is as a Haitian American, a Haitian daughter. A Haitian daughter is a good girl. She is respectful, studious, hardworking. She never forgets the importance of her heritage. We are part of the first free black nation in the Western Hemisphere, my brothers and I were often told. No matter how far we have fallen, when it matters most, we rise. Haitians love the food from our island, but they judg e gluttony. I suspect this rises out of the poverty for which Haiti is too often and too narrowly known . (Gay 2017, 55) Importantly, in this paragraph, Gay reveals the ways being Haitian, particularly for her outside of Haiti, necessitates a response to the one dimensional narrative about Haiti poverty espou sed in the global North. Moreover, the circulation of a one dimensional narrative is prev a lent within Haiti as well. Haitian anthropologist Michel Rolph Trouillot writes of the pitfalls of the opposite narrative to that of Haiti as an impoverished nation: exceptionalism, its uniqueness, its resilience, political context and the ways it circulates within a global context (Trouillot 1990) . In this excerpt, Gay reflects on the two sides to the narratives about Haiti: a country marked by its res ilience and exceptionalism and an impoverished nation. For Gay, to be Haitian American, then, is to portray a positive image of Haiti and its people, to fulfill the duties of a Haitian daughter


79 and to always be conscious of the simplistic Haitian narrative that circulates around her . After Gay is raped by several boys in the woods, she could no longer fit herself into the implicit rulebook of goodness she had internalized, shaped through racialized, gendered, and sexualized messages about how to achieve value as a Black, Haitian American girl. When Gay recalls her experience of sexual abuse as a child, she writes, girl. I was less than human. I was no l (Gay 2017, 46) . She goes on in a later chapter ( Gay 2017, 51) . At twelve, Gay feels that her victimization is a reflection of her value, her own goodness rather than that of the heartbreaking and telling. As a child, sh e thinks in these binaries. For her, there is good and there is bad, no in between. The reader, though, is meant to understand that it is becomes clearer: a composite of the racialized, gendered messages that we receive, even in childhood, that tell us how to behave, how to be, in order to be valuable, deserving. experience of sexual abuse, she felt that she needed to keep up the appearance of being a good girl. Early on in Hunger as Gay recounts the sexual trauma she experienced as a child, Gay daughter my parents knew, the good girl, the straight


80 what happened, but I k (Gay 2017, 44) . In her childhood attempt to prove her own wort h, to become the respectable and deserving citizen, she remained silent about her rape. Collapsing all of the ways in which she was socialized into the simple good/bad framework, Gay challenges the reader to identify their own value system and how those va lues were shaped. Hunger becomes all the more apparent when Gay refers to her abusers using the adjective. In response to her parents fear of her desire to go to New York University due to the danger of the ci ty, in the woods behind well manicured exclusive suburban neighborhoods, at the hands of good boys (Gay 2017, 86) neoliberal social and moral value as dependent on economic value . T he juxtaposition be families wealth, whiteness, and heterosexuality mark these people as socially and morally superio r, regardless of their actual behavior. As Gay continues to integrate these critiques about the racist, sexist, classist value systems ingrained in her as a child, she articulates a politic that disrupts logics of respectability in favor of an approach tha t allows her to be a full subject, without the concession of any part of her. By the final chapter of Hunger , Gay has elucidated the good/bad framework she was so influenced by as a child and has developed her vehement critique that considers this framewo rk to be deeply entangled with her trauma. As she focuses on what healing


81 was a mess and then I grew up and away from that terrible day and became a different kind of me ss a woman doing the best she can to love well and be loved well, to live (Gay 2017, 302) In this final chapter, Gay describes her healing through the reclamation of her humanness, her goodness, and her messiness. opposition to her b eing. Hunger of power that produced her trauma and as a refusal to be excluded from personhood, messiness and all. Toward Futures of Hunger and Healing Throughout Hunger, Gay makes visible, challenges, and works to heal from false dichotomies that value Eurocentric epistemological frameworks of citizenship. As Roxane Gay narrates her journey of healing from her childhood rape, she subverts the broken/ fixed dichotomy of sur vivorhood. Gay gestures to this even in her preference of label, writing that she prefers the label victim to survivor precisely because the label of survivor, to her, indicates some kind of unscarred, triumphant endpoint (Gay 2017, 20 21) Lakshmi Piepzna industrial (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 229) use the term victim to describe her experience but rather to connect her experience, and her decision, to Piepzna Samarasinha describes educator of Burgher/Tamil Sr addition to the book of essays I cite in this section, Care Work: Dreaming Disability


82 Justice, their own memoir Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home 2020 ) . Piepzna particularly attune to what it means to write a memoir as a victim or survivor of childhood sexual abuse, making their critiques of the framework of survivorhood part Hunger . In their book Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna able to imagine survivor futures where we are thriving but not cured (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 232) . For Piepzna Samarasinha, this dichotomy creates the survivors who are still broken. In the final chapter of Hunger , Gay reflects on her own experience with healing from her assault. Refusing to fold herself into either one of these predetermined narratives, Gay writes: I am as healed as I am ever going to be. I have accepted that I will never be the girl I could have been if, if, if. I am still haunted. I still have being touched by people with whom I do not share specific kinds of in timacy. I am suspicious of groups of men, particularly when I am alone. I have nightmares, though with far less frequency. I will never forgive the boys who raped me and I am a thousand percent comfortable with that because forgiving them will not free me happy, but I can see and feel that happiness is well within my reach. But. I am not the same scared girl that I was. I have let the right ones in. I have found my voice . (Gay 2017, 302 3) (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 231) . She writes about the ways that her assault still haunts her and


83 impacts her daily life. She is not healed in any absolute sense but is living and surviving Samarasinha says abou (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 167) . As Piepzna Samarasinha writes, this dichotomy of survivorhood refuses the complexity with which both Gay and Piepzna Samarasinha describe their experience of healing and is rooted in ableism. In their book Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, Piepzna Samarasinha narrates a patronizing experience they had with a therapist whose approach to healing from childhood sexua l abuse was squarely within this broken/ cured binary (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 226) . As Piepzna Samarasinha en, and (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 226) . Much like Gay, Piepzna Samarasinha frames their experience of childhood sexual abuse as something that they do not resolve, pack up, and leave behind, but as an experience that has deeply altered who they are and that they will likely never fully move on from. This connection between the dichotomy of where we are thrivi ng Samarasinha writes about are already existing within these complex narratives of victimization and survival (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 232) .


84 Hunger how she experiences and explains th em now, and, importantly, how they appear on and through her body. This process of writing and remembering abuse counters what Piepzna (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 234) . Piepzna Samarasinha writes: Traditi limited process that happens upon recovery of abuse memories and then is over. But in another survivor universe, we are continually expanding we are always remembering and remembering again, and t hinking about what our wounding means. We are mining our survivor experiences for knowledge . (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 234) In Hunger, Gay writes this expanding universe . Her memoir is her own universe of knowledge, desire, contradiction, and healing born of this experie nce of victimization, one that is still very much integral to her understanding of self. What Piepzna embodied knowledge I posit Gay is exploring through this memoir of her body (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 234) . In Hunger , Gay reveals and refuses the dichotomies that have shaped her hunger, her unfulfilled desires, and, in doing so, finds ways to live and thrive in her body. Drawing a connection between Hunger and disability justice provides insight into because Piepzna interventions form a victim/survivor centere d f ramework for reading Hunger but also because Gay herself begins to draw this connection in one of her fina l chapters. Gay (Gay 2017, 297) . A disability justice framework, one that makes visible the broken/ cured binary, reveals a key intervention in Hunger : there is, in fact,


85 much to be gained and known in and through queer fat, Bl ack, and disabled bodies. The bodies move through the world (Gay 2017, 297) focus on the material of her body, the way her body exists in th e world. Again, it is through an attention to the experience and memory of the body that knowledge about the self and about the world emerges. In Hunger , Gay not only mines her experience of victimization for knowledge, as Piepzna Samarasinha calls for, b ut mines her body for knowledge, for her truth. Futures where victims and survivors, and Black women, and queer people, and immigrants, and fat bodies thrive without being cured of their non normativity exist in the here and now, in Hunger, Dirty River, a (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 167) . Just as Leah Lakshmi Piepzna untaught by what I have learned through this miracle of surviving Gay writes to have (Piepzna Samarasinha 2018, 239; Gay 2017, 304) . Hunger, what a queer Black woman choose to create and share with us, is a glimpse at a beautifully complex, contradictory, queer, disabled, fat, Black migrant future of the right now.


86 CHAPT ER 4 CONCLUDING IN THE BEGINNING In an attempt to play with form , as Hernández and Gay do, I conclude by returning to the opening of this thesis. The epigraph to Chapter 1 contained two quotes: the first by the late Toni Morrison and the second by the late Audre Lorde. In her 1993 (Morrison 1993) . It may seem odd for me to begin a thesis about memoir, about , up imagine and redefine the real a call to which these memoirs, I believe, have certainly responded. imagination, fiction, and she writes, to excavate and imagine the unwritten interiorities of Black and otherwise marginalized people (Morrison 1995, 92) . For marginalized people, whose stories and histories are not written, whose knowledge is denied, whose personhood is rejected, narrative both necessitates imagination and creates the self. Our truths are products of imagination because they are not and cannot be documented or told through Eurocentric modes o f knowing. To write our narratives is to document, against all impossibility, our subjectivities, our truths, our selves. narrative entails and, through their rearrangement and redefinition of form, time, memory, knowledge, and truth, Daisy Hernández and Roxane Gay do just that. In A


87 Cup of Water Under My Bed , Hernández redefines genealogies of knowledge, tracing her memory through thread to form the fabric of herself . In the beg inning pages of her memoir, Hernández brings the fluidity of memory into view. She writes of a memory of her kindergarten teacher and pauses her story to address details she misremembered wever, missteps in memory, places where emotion has distorted people, sights, even cuerpos [bodies], does not alter the telling of that memory (Hernández 2014, 4) . In that scene, Hernández continues to write her kindergarten teacher as she remembers her rather than how she was. Commenting on this moment in the memoir in an interview, Hernández states: I think every memoirist has that moment when they realize that their t he way I thought about my kindergarten teacher, how she looked her king some choices here as a writer. I could have gone back and made her remembered it and it was not part of the fabric of how I went forward in my life thinking about her Hernandez 2015) a story . recollection, the ways her memory fails her, that creates the most real, if imagined, narrative of herself. What matters is not what was documented in the photographs she found, but rather how that fallible memory, tha t imagined truth, shaped her sense of self. Writing a memoir necessitated making up her story about herself, creating it, and, in turn, creating herself as she knows herself. A Cup of Water Under My Bed and Hunger both serve to produce these narratives of the


88 self while also, as the second epigraph suggests, address the very conditions that create a need for these narratives in the first place. She writes: What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence ? (Lorde 2007, 41) The questions Lorde raises in this quote are foundational to the memoirs I have analyzed in this thesis. As Hernández and Gay write their narratives, they bring into view the daily aggressions that shape their lives. Whether it is the linguistic and epistemic violence that Hernández struggles through or the racist, sexist, and fatphobic , urgency of both the writing of memoir by QWOC , an d of this thesis (Lorde 2007, 41) . I understand A Cup of Water Under My Bed and Hunger questions, as a transformation of silence into language, and a push toward action. and this thesis is just the beginning of a larger conversation about the significance of QWOC memoirs and life writing. Daisy Hernández and Roxane Gay are just two of many queer women of color writing about their lives, and just two of the many narratives wort h learning from. Queer women of color are writing their narratives every day. Whether it is through memoirs, blogs, podcasts, diaries, films, poetry, fiction, or any number of other present and future mediums, our narratives are powerful sources of knowled ge that provide insight into the social workings of our worlds and write our very selves into existence. Our memories, in all their imperfection, create our truths.


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93 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Andreina Elena Fernandez was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1995 to parents María Antonietta Diaz and Jorge Enrique Fernandez. In 1997, Andreina immigrated to Weston, Florida with her parents and brother, also Jorge Enriqu e Fernandez. Andreina graduated from Cypress Bay High School in 2013 and moved to Gainesville, Florida in the summer of During her undergraduate program, Andreina dedicated herself to social justice education, serv ing as a Director for Gatorship, a student run social justice retreat program. In 2017, Andreina graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics, and a minor in Disabilities in Society. U pon graduating, she spent a In December 2019, Andreina completed a Graduate Certificate in Latin American S tudies and she graduated with h er Master of Arts in