This post contains affiliate links to independent bookstores.
Edited by Gabriela Jauregui, Tsunami (Sexto Piso, 2018) and Tsunami 2 (Sexto Piso, 2020) bring together thought-provoking texts from women novelists, film directors, essayists, activists, poets, and academics. Over 24 incisive essays, poems, and blended narratives – there are twelve in each edition – the Tsunamis present a kaleidoscope of insight and analysis in an entirely accessible way, without flattening or homogenizing the sparkling, shifting definition of feminism with which each writer contends, whether implicitly or explicitly.
Essays in the Tsunamis touch on the danger of silencing women, the frustrations of motherhood, the oppressions – plural – which feminism needs to confront. Others reimagine what community means in an indigenous context, while one is a letter to Zapatista revolutionaries, and another cleverly compares pornography to the myth of Narcissus.
Reading Tsunami, I cried over Vivian Abenshushan’s piece on the ingrained patriarchal hierarchy of literary workshops. Then I cried some more over Daniela Rea’s essay-in-diary-entries about the first four years of her daughter’s lives, which exists both in dialogue with itself as well as with excellent novels such as Brenda Navarro’s Casas vacías. Meanwhile, Diana J. Torres’ essay, about being stabbed late one night in Mexico City, includes a phrase that I’ve thought about a lot since reading: “Sometimes we’re more afraid of things in our imagination than in our experience.” (Did I mention I’ve talked about these essay collections in therapy?)
I especially appreciated the unwillingness of the Tsunamis to simply take feminism, in its current iteration, at face value. While feminism is the obvious throughline in most if not every essay, that never provides it with a free pass, exempting this most mainstream of movements from thorough analysis and interrogation. In ‘La lengua, la sangre y el apellido’ Yásnaya Elena A. Gil questions and rejects the Spanish-language terms ‘indígena’ and ‘feminismo’, citing them as uncomfortable. (In that same essay, she also writes one of the collection’s stand-out lines: “empresa amestizadora del estado Mexicano” [‘mestizo-making business of the Mexican state’].)
This is exemplified in Tsunami 2’s longest and arguably most captivating essay: Dahlia de la Cerda’s examination of what she calls ‘room of one’s own’ feminism. In it, she interrogates the deeply rooted impact of class and race on what feminism can be/is/does for individual women. “Abortemos la fragilidad blanca”, she writes. “Pero también la de clase acomodada.” [“Abort white fragility, but also that of the well-to-do.”] After all, “who sweeps up the pieces of glass from the ceiling white women break through?”
In the same volume, Marina Azahua’s fragmentary ‘La rebelión de las Casandras’ – which draws parallels between the silenced women of Greek mythology and the lived experience of women in Mexico – struck me just as viscerally. With reference to “green bandanas, pink glitter and puffs of purple smoke”, Azahua directly invokes the feminist marches and movements which have swept like the titular tsunami the length and breadth of Mexico and Latin America in recent years.
Because that title – Tsunami – is no accident; the Tsunamis simultaneously evoke a sense of unstoppable energy and mark, if not the culmination, then a coming-together of those so-called waves of feminism that have marked, defined, and divided the feminist movement for decades. Regardless of their disparate approaches, ideas and concerns, women are stronger together. We’re the titular tsunami: destructive, messy, powerful.
(The best news? An English-language translation which will compile works from both volumes of Mexico’s Tsunamis is forthcoming.)
About Gabriela Jauregui
Gabriela Jauregui (Mexico City, 1979) is a writer, poet and critic who co-founded the publishing collective sur+. She’s the author of one poetry anthology, two hybrid novels and one short story collection.