Attack of the (killer) Lesbian Gangs- Chavisa Woods


Excerpts from the GLBT Center Lecture on Street Sexual Harassment and the Dyke experience.                                   by Chavisa Woods

 

In conversations on the subject of gender, sex, sexuality and public interactions, when speaking with some seemingly liberal minded, artistically inclined, gay friendly heterosexual men, I have on more than one occasion come upon these general ideas and specific statements regarding the relationships of gender identity and gender relation.

 

1. Men’s sexual urges and desires are much stronger than women’s.

 

2. Testosterone is a sort of drug that affects sexual desire and ego in men in a way that women can never understand.

 

3. It takes a much larger amount of will power for a man to control his urges than it does for a woman to control hers.

 

4. Men’s urges are barbaric and primal. (implicitly excluding the primal from the feminine)

 

5. Most rapes occur because a woman is dressed provocatively. Most women who are raped were dressed provocatively when they were raped.

 

6. When upset, women cry, men kill.

 

7. I feel a sort of allegiance to other men and would not try to fuck their girlfriend, would not hit on her in front of her boyfriend. If a woman is with another woman, I see no real reason not to pursue that woman, or both women openly.

 

8. But you don’t look like a lesbian.

 

9. “Yeah, sure. My girlfriend likes women too. But it’s not the same thing. My desire for women is stronger than hers.”

 

10. Men are biologically more sexual than women. It is a scientific fact.

 

11. I think a lot of women don’t think they like being cat called, but when they get older, and it stops, they miss it.

 

12. And again. It is a scientific fact that male sexual desire is stronger than female sexual desire, which is a notion that runs through all of the statements.

 

 

The notion that it is a scientific fact that a woman’s sexual urges are not as strong as a man’s I find laughable, when taking into a consideration that for hundreds of years it was a scientific fact that women did not have orgasms. It seemed logical; the female orgasm was not needed for reproduction and women on the whole did not openly display strong sexuality, again for socio-psychological reasons. On the subject of scientific facts of biological sexuality I would also like to point out that the discovery of and research into the effects of estrogen began in the 1930’s, while the discovery and research of testosterone began in 1803.

 

 

When we approach something as interpersonal, psychological, sociological, and also biological, something as complex as sexual desire, it is inherently ruinous to approach the concept beginning with the question of strength. The question whose sexuality is stronger immediately mars and marks the deconstruction by implying that one side must ultimately take legitimacy over the other.

 

When using the question of strength, another problem arises. On what do you base the definition of strength when speaking of sexual desire? For too long it has been based on a simple fact of a physical urge, disregarding any notions of strong emotional or intellectual sexuality. A woman’s sexuality is therefore delegitimized as the emotional on the basis that the emotional is not linked to the instinctual, the primal, the physical.

 

This concept has no logical basis. Emotionality does stem from the instinctual and primal urges as much as the physical, although human emotions, over time have grown much more complex than animal emotion as we have become conscious of our emotions and are able to ask ourselves why we feel what we feel. Animals display a range of emotions too, albeit in a simplistic form; anger, guilt, sadness, playfulness, loyalty attraction, dislike, the need to nurture their young, fight, some species war and of coarse, the urge to reproduce. These all, at their base, are instinctual, simplistic emotional urges. Animals simply do not ask themselves why they feel these “emotions” and their emotions have remained basic, instinctual, less complex.

 

As the emotional sexual indicators have grown more complex in humans, so have physical sexual indicators. Thinness as a physically attractive concept is a very complex sexual indicator, as primaley, animalisticly, thinness would indicate sickness and weakness and make a female appear not to be a healthy mate or offspring bearer. In humans, typically, the woman is considered more attractive if she dresses colorfully, flamboyantly, showing off her body, wearing bright colors, flowers, make up etc. In most animals we find it is the males who display the flamboyant dress, and coloring, large feathers, bright reds and greens in lizards, birds and fish. Although among mammals the sexes are more homogenous. So even this idea of basic physical attraction in humans as purely primal and simple, does not take into consideration that human physical attraction, however immediate it may seem, is a very complex physiological process influenced by a societal evolution, that is now actually as far divided from animal territory as the emotional sexual response.

 

 

Also, I would like not to exclude the possibility that women’s physical sexual desire and enjoyment is as physically strong as a man’s, but that we process it, communicate it and act upon it differently, for biological, and socio- psychological reasons. This possibility cannot be overlooked. But it has been for generations. And that possibility many men still find laughable, and most likely threatening.

 

 

I can’t think of any other such marginalizing and outdated concept that is so widely accepted about a group of people in mainstream sociality as the conceit that a man’s sexual urges are overall, inherently, biologically STRONGER than a woman’s.

 

Again, this simple concept and the use of the idea of stronger is what inherently infects our idea of sexual desires. Exactly how the biology affects an individuals sexual desire is complex, may never be fully determined and shifts depending upon the psychology of the individual. I will say that a man’s biological make up is obviously different from a woman’s. And many studies have shown, or lead to show that a man’s sexuality and ability to enjoy sex is based more on basic physicality than a woman’s. But this idea that that basic physicality is more primal, more animalistic, again excluding or even neutralizing the role of female animal sexuality in nature, gives legitimacy to men over women as sexual creatures and takes a very naive and narrow view of nature, animal female sexuality and sexuality in general.

 

This concept seems to me to be not so different from the concept that blacks are biologically inclined to have better rhythm, be more sexual, violent or less intellectual due to the effects of melatonin.

 

Why does all of this matter?

 

 

 

This pervasive idea that a man’s sexuality is stronger, uncontrollable, is what allows men a sort of out, an excuse if you will to sexually harass and assault women on a daily basis with no danger of retribution. If this idea were not accepted, at least subconsciously by most of the population, would it be common place for an onlooker to take no action, to walk by as if nothing were happening, as a woman is being cat called, harassed and harangued? I don’t think so.

 

 

I live in Bedstuy Brooklyn. Although I encounter sexual harassment, cat calling etc, in every neighborhood, in this neighborhood, the level of aggression and frequency of cat calling  is noticeably higher in my neighborhood. I am not just called out as a dyke and as a woman; I am called out as a white woman. Men have yelled terms like snow bunny, snowflake, white bitch, white trash whore tap that white ass, as I walk by, and when I pass without acknowledging them, I am a white trash bitch, just a white bitch, and all sorts of other things.

 

On the surface this appears to be a racial and class issue. On some level it is. The subconscious need to subvert one’s own subjugation by subjugating another minority. But at it core it is definitively a sexist issue. These men see a white person as a representation of the former master and/or present oppressor; I have no doubt, and this feeling is not unfounded. But I have walked down these same streets with my white male friends in complete peace, while when I walk down the street with my female friends and my partner, it never fails to occur. Ultimately, I have concluded that these men view white women as white man’s property. Though they dare not “fuck with the master” in a public setting, they have no problem fucking with what is viewed as his property. The problem comes from viewing women, all women as someone’s property.

 

I do not eman to imply that these men do not also harangue and harass women of color. Of coarse they do. I’ve seen it. This is simply my experience.

 

The breaker came for me two weeks ago, when the cat calling, which I have always understood not as a sexual act, but a violent act, an act of aggression took on the form of full-blown assault. My girlfriend and I were walking down the street on a Sunday morning, heading to the deli on our block to get a bagel, and a man walked by, without saying a word and punched my partner in her stomach.

 He then went into the liquor store, bought a bottle of gin got into his car and sped away. I had my phone out to call the police, bit we were shocked and didn’t get his license number. There were other people on the street who had seen it. They did nothing except continue walking. One homeless man showed some sympathy, saying he had seen what had happened and was sorry. As we were speaking to this man and visibly upset, two other men dressed in their Sunday best walked by us and said flirtatiously, “good morning lovely ladies.” When we didn’t respond they scoffed and glared at us. I felt like was in a war zone, like I was possibly even a initiating the war, just by walking down the sidewalk without a man.

 

In one of her earlier poems, Adrian rich wrote that walking down the street visibly pregnant, was the first time in her life that she did not feel guilty walking alone as a woman.

 

That describes the feeling well. What are we guilty of? Of being a woman, alone or without a man. We are still guilty of being women un-owned by a man.

 

So dykes must be doubly guilty. We are not owned by men, some of us, to play with the term, are owned by and owned other women.

 

Now comes the issue of the dyke experience of harassment. I have been told by straight women, not to get so upset about cat calling. Some have even looked at me as though I was bragging when I complained about sexual harassment. And again I have heard from str8 men that they believe, while it annoys women, they miss it when they get older and cat calling ceases- That they worry that men no longer find them attractive.

 

I am not concerned with men finding me attractive. When I am walking down the street holding hands with my girlfriend and a man calls to us and implies that he would like to join us, I feel, not complimented. I feel “emasculated;’ for lack of a better term, humiliated, homicidal. 

 

You know the term can’t live with them, can’t live without them? I can live without them.

 

It is not only in the street that men invade my relationship, but in everyday conversation, at social functions, gallery openings concerts, etc. Men see no problem flirting with a woman who is in a relationship with another woman in front of the partner, when, If one of those women were male, they would never dare to do so. After being harassed on a beach, I spoke to a man and his wife who had witnessed the harassment and was concerned, but ultimately his concern veered into this mind boggling statement. “Well, you have to be careful, you are three women alone.” I was on the beach with two other female friends.  Now I have to ask you, how is it possible for us to have been alone when we were three people together? This implies that all women are alone without men. And it was not the first time I have heard such statements.

 

 

 

 

Group discussion began

 

Women were asked

 

How many have been sexually harassed? All

 

How many view cat-calling as sexual harassment?  All

 

How many of you have been physically assaulted: over 80%

 

Sexually assaulted: Over 80%

 

Raped: Many woman shared stories, one I have heard too often from lesbians, being raped by a casual acquaintance who claimed he was going to “fuck her straight.

 

One woman spoke of cat calling, ‘” I feel powerless. I shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of aggression every day of my life. I feel like I have my anger under control, and then, I don’t know, I feel like someday I might just freak out, explode and hurt someone, and that one guy is going to pay for every day, of all these years, of all these other men…”

 

Some statistics:

 


 ( I looked for statistics outlining the percentage of women raped who identify as lesbian, or percentages of lesbians who have been sexually assaulted. As of yet, i have found no statistics on that. If anyone knows where I might let me know)

 

·          One in 4 girls are sexually assaulted by the age 18

 

·          Of adult American women who are raped, 31.5 percent are physically injured, but only 35.6% of those who are injured received medical care.

 

·          According to a study conducted by the National Victim Center, 1.3 women (age 18 and over) in the United States are forcibly raped each minute. That translates to 78 an hour, 1,871 per day, or 683,000 per year.

 

·          According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female and 9% are male.

 

·          Rape or sexual assault was the violent crime least often reported/ Only 16% of rapes are ever reported to the police.

 

·          7.7% of college men reported perpetrating aggressive behavior which met the legal definition of rape.

 

·          The rate of rapes and sexual assaults against lesbian and gays rose 13% nationally in 1995-1996, approximately twice the 6% rate for all violent crimes.

 

·          16% of male students surveyed by the Ms. Foundation who had committed rape, and 10% of those who attempted a rape, took part in episodes involving multiple perpetrators.

 

      -1 in 15 rape victims contracts a sexually transmitted disease as a result of being raped.  1 in 15 rape victims becomes pregnant as a result of being raped.  (Koss, Woodruff & Koss, 1990, A Criminological Study.)

 

_______________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Discussed means of activism.  This recent Trail was brought up. The case of the new Jersey four. (below)

 

Discussion lead to why this case has not had any real attention. Conclusion, because these were four black women, who were lesbians.

 

Many women in the room voiced their disappointment with the gay male community for not acting in solidarity with lesbian problems, when many lesbians have devoted much of their time as activists to issues directly affecting gay males. Women are harassed in the street as well, beaten and killed, but more often raped or threatened. They discussed the role of feminism in the lesbian community and the need for a greater understanding of feminist ideas.

 

Trial case details below:

 

ATTACK OF THE KILLER LESBIAN  GANGS ( as Bill Oreily put it)

 

“Or they defended themselves so you put them in jail.”

 

On August 18th, 2006 seven young African American lesbians (ranging from 19-30 years old) from New Jersey were verbally threatened, sexually harassed, and physically attacked by a twenty-nine year old man as they walked down the street in the West Village of New York City (the West Village is “the” gay spot in NYC. It actually pre-dates San Francisco as the ‘gay meca’ & is where queer youth from all over the country come to when they are ostracized from their communities. It is the site of the famous “Stonewall Riots” which sparked the gay rights movement in the late 60′s. And currently, 40% of the homeless people in the West Village are queer youth of color).

The man, Dwayne Buckle, approached the girls/ women saying he wanted to “get some of that” pointing Patreese Johnson’s vagina (Patreese was 19, but she looks 12). She said she was gay & not interested in men, in fact was arm & arm with another girl. He proceeded to tell them he would “fuck them all straight,” he said they were “nasty” and many other sexually assaulting and homophobic slurs.

They responded to him verbally . He flicked his cigarette at them & then spit in Renata Hill’s face. She spit back. He then punched Venice Brown in the face. From there a fight broke out. The girls would try to get him off one person & he would grab another. He pulled dreadlocks straight out of a girl’s scalp, extensions out of two others & chocked two of them until they changed color in the face.

Two men standing by jumped in to defend the girls. One took off his belt & whipped him repeatedly in the head with his belt buckle. The second guy is thought, by some to have stabbed him in the stomach. The attacker was allegedly stabbed in the stomach, and spent five days in the hospital with no long-term wounds. When these two men joined the fight, the women were able to get away. At one point on the surveillance (there were two cameras that caught different parts of the fight on tape) camera you see the girls walking away & the man Buckle waving hair he pulled out of their head at them & following after them for a moment.

 

The police came to the scene. The women had entered a Mcdonald’s a couple of blocks away. The police arrested the women.

The 7 women were initially charged with attempted murder. Those charges were dropped, but they were all charged and convicted with Gang Assault in the Second Degree and then various degrees of Assault (which are all felony convictions). Three accepted a guilty plea bargain and received six-months & five years probation. The other four, who became known as the NJ4, plead not-guilty and received sentences ranging from 3.5, 5, 8, and 11 years (Terrain Dandridge, Venice Brown, Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson). The two men who jumped into the fight were never looked for nor questioned.

The man who initially harassed them is charging that the girls took part in hate crime against straight men, and has a website and organization which now collects donations to prevent hate crime against straight men.

 

The media coverage was outrageous. Everyone from the NY Times, Bill O’Reilly, The Daily Post, the Washington Post, etc, had headlines ranging from, “Attack of the Killer lesbians,” “Petit But Ornery Lesbians Stab Admirer,” “Lesbian Gangs are taking over the U.S.” “Growling Lesbians,” “Wolf Pack of Lesbians,” etc. The media was blatantly homophobic, racist, sexist and classist. They used criminalizing language and likened them to animals, using only the picture of one of the butch lesbians in all of the papers. They also questioned “if they could even afford to be in NYC”.

For more info visit http://www.myspace.com/isupportthenj4

Chavisa Woods’ Love Does Not Make Me Gentle Or Kind -Reviewd byPhilip Gounis

                                                                      

          There’s a girl in New York City

          She calls herself the human trampoline

          And sometimes when I am falling, flying

          Tumbling in turmoil I say

          Oh, so this is what she means

                  -Graceland (Paul Simon

           It seemed eerily significant that in the same week that I first met Chavisa Woods, scenes of youthful violence and victimization filled the media outlets. YouTube videos of teenage girls in Florida bloodying one of their own was broadcast ad nauseum; over four hundred children of a polygamous sect in Texas were taken into protective custody; and Virginia Tech noted one year since its on campus massacre. A societal landscape of pervasive brutality and ubiquitous perdition. This also is the milieu of Woods’ short story collection, Love Does Not Make Me Gentle Or Kind. Her stories are at once a true-life chronicle of growing up absurdly in rural America and a surrealistic survival book on how to transcend the same.

              Readers may have trekked some of this toxic terrain before with writers like Dorothy Allison, but Chavisa Woods leads us through these narratives with a Doris Lessing-like metaphysical clarity.

It is the author’s understated, wise beyond her years psychological perceptions that are the binding emulsion of this collection. In response to an interviewer’s comment on this, Ms. Woods response was,” Don’t they say it’s the mileage not the years that matter?” Indeed.

    It is a mark of the writer’s syntactical brilliance that she opens this book with a textbook precise description of the honeysuckle plant only to then adroitly immerse the reader in the paradoxical childhood realm of vulnerability and acute awareness. “Where I was growing up, violence was as common as a sneeze”, Ms. Woods stated to me matter- of- factly. Characteristically the children in “The Smell of Honey” have become acclimated to an atmosphere of violence to the point where this acclimation has become their device for survival. This is a reoccurring thread throughout the book.

    The vivid characters and scenarios are depicted with such sagacious nuance, that the reader is drawn into a childlike vision of rich metaphor that belies the knife sharp actuality. It is both a trenchant literary memoir and a searing indictment of a pitiless society. “Sundown in the Land of Lincoln” tells of a novice African-American grade school student who realizes that “People were processing the information of him and trying to fit him into the category of human being, without compromising the integrity of their own status…” Later, his dilemma is only finally resolved with a magical jolt of cultural and chemical shamanism.  

.

               By the time the reader reaches only the third story, “Kicking”; they find themselves vicariously enveloped in the complex vortex of adolescent sexuality. In just four pages, the writer vibrantly brings alive all the fear, anticipation and wonder of youthful physical discovery. All of this in what is ostensibly a short description of everyday playground shenanigans. This alternating sensibility of empowerment and vulnerability is the vehicle that transports and thereby transforms those who partake in all of Chavisa Woods’ art. It is an artistic statement that brings to mind the observations of French philosopher Jacques Lacan and his extensive explorations of his concept of “the Other.” In other stories, the female protagonists respond to their exploitation with a violent, brutal act. Mutilation or dismemberment is not disallowed. At the same time there is always a transcendent panoramic truth, both ontological and emotional that fills the page. 

       “Never Enough” is a narrative from her book that has a section that Ms. Woods often delivers as a performance piece. In it, the narrator, a female proto-punk dyke Holden Caulfield type declares: “ Or maybe I don’t believe in GOD anymore, ’cause my God was always talking about how he died for me and I had to die and be reborn for him all the time, or else spend all my afterlife dying, and I only have the energy to die for one thing at a time right now, and right now I’m dying for love. Maybe I’ll die for love right now, and later I’ll die for God. Or maybe I already died a little for God. Anyway. Fuck it.”

     It is in fact, the philosophical undercurrent of these stories that drive them and distinguish them from the genre of transgressive literature. And it is not as if these stories necessarily unfold in an orthodox linear manner. It is more accurate to say that the brilliantly descriptive prose barrels the reader through a Hieronymus Bosch like tunnel of images and deep perceptions. One rich in societal and psychological revelations. These seemingly shuffled chapters of one novel suggest progression and development simultaneously with freeze frame cinematic scenes that stop time for both the characters and reader. Beyond the constraints of linearity, the author is free to impart to the reader incidents in scenarios that are unbounded by cause and effect. What then surfaces and are truly experienced by the reader are the most profound of emotional and at the same time political truths.

            Chavisia Woods’ prose explodes the connection between patriarchal tyranny and fascism. It is within that spectacle of explosion that the contemporary American Zeitgeist becomes illuminated. . Love Does Not Make Me Gentle Or Kind is as much an indictment of the ignorant and sadistic among us as it is of the collective atmosphere of indifference that nurtures the same. What level of indifference must exist in a society that celebrates ignorance and pain? Is this indifference the only natural human response to an unfeeling, modern super- sized technological environment? And to what degree are these factors the result of a system of Darwinian economics? 

 

     Only the best narrative writing can provoke as this collection does. This is an extraordinary book. Woods’ impeccable use of language involves the reader in a high level of intense vicarious physicality, while it provokes an equally intense emotional and intellectual response. This is well crafted art in the form of effective, dynamic literature.

                                                                                               – Philip Gounis

To purchase this book visit:

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Does-Make-Gentle-Kind/dp/1930083122

The Touching Exhibit – reviewed by Maria Logven and Tom Weiss

touchimg_2413-2.jpg

This review of the recent Yoko Ono “Touch Me” exhibit at the Galerie Lelong in Manhattan, is the work of two writers. Maria Logven, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, writes fiction and poetry and is a regular at art openings. Tom Weiss, a native of New York City, is the publisher of UP FRONT News and also writes some poetry. He is not a regular at art openings. Both are residents of Staten Island.

* * *touch_me_exhibit_photo_by_daydreampilot-3.JPG

Touch me was the intimate title of Yoko Ono’s 2008 solo exhibition held at Galerie Lelong, New York. The personal nature of the show was conveyed through conceptual photography, film, portraits, and sculptures that invited viewers to participate and become not merely part of the show but also its heart. Works of different media positioned viewers at the center of the world created by Yoko Ono, the world that viewers could connect with and recognize. Touch me invited visitors to examine themselves through their relationship to this world. Point of view, both very personal and at the same time shared by others became the intangible creation that was as much part of the show as the installations that were used to produce it. By exhibiting this point of view, the show embraced the female experience.
Connections or relationships were integral themes that united all elements of the show. Segmentation is the method Yoko Ono chose to highlight relationships.
The exhibit was physically arranged in two somewhat separated sections. Touch me I, Touch me II, Touch me III, and Vertical Memory appeared in the large space, separated from the smaller adjacent area by a partition. The smaller area, which also contained the four screens of Ms. Ono’s Cut Piece performance, represented something of a political statement regarding mental health and freedom.
Touch me I was a large canvas that covered the entire width of the gallery. The canvas had several cut-outs in which visitors were encouraged to insert their body parts and have their photographs taken with provided cameras. Then viewers could write comments on their photographs and pin them to Touch me II, a white wall forming another canvas. Inserting their body parts into the holes, participating visitors had to consider particular segments of their body that they wished to appear on a large white canvas. Was it a face, a hand, a leg, or an intimate body part some felt brave enough to expose? All the grimaces and postures became segments pinned to the second canvas. Looking at the pictures—funny, shy, cute, conservative, ugly; reading comments—silly, neutral, sharp, sordid, humorous; viewers laughed, pointed fingers, compared, and contrasted, uniting these segments into a single growing installation and becoming aware of the relationship between themselves and the multitude of others. Crowning this installation was the Sky TV, another canvas that could be filled with stars resembling the photographs of the show stars pinned to the second canvas.
Touch me III consisted of female body segments. Visitors were invited to dip their index and middle fingers into a bowl of solution and touch the soft texture. Disturbing to the eye were the deformities of the body. The text on the wall explained that the sculpture was damaged and its toes were severed by rough handling. Yoko Ono decided not to restore the sculpture but left it as a comment on female experience. Viewers’ eyes connected segments into a body, while their fingers formed a connection with their own bodies both physically and mentally as they became aware of their own body parts that correspond to the ones they touched on the sculpture.
Vertical Memory was a series of pictures of a male face created by combining Yoko Ono’s father, husband, and son. Concise and moving comments written under the pictures were distinct segments that united into a narrative about the passage through life from birth to death. This installation highlighted diverse relationships to various men throughout a lifetime.
Segmentation continued into the adjacent gallery room with a 4-screen installation of Yoko Ono’s performance Cut Piece, filmed at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1965. The film featured Yoko Ono whose clothes were cut to pieces with scissors by regularly approaching strangers.
There was a series of portraits, Memory Paintings, of women from an earlier century who, according to a gallery staffer, were inpatients of a psychiatric facility in France. At the time the facility was presumably known as an asylum. While none of the subjects were depicted as in distress, none were smiling. One was somewhat disfigured. The inner side of the partition contained the outline of a door, presumably the way out of the institution.
Installations displayed in both rooms conveyed similar themes through similar methods, but taken together they demonstrated the connection of female experience through time.

touch_me_i_photo_by_daydreampilot-2.JPG

Rescatando a un Anti-Héroe – por Linda Morales Caballero

luis.jpg
Luis Bandolero Luis
Walter Ventosilla
Paloma Ediciones

En Luis Bandolero Luis, el dramaturgo, cuentista, novelista y artista plástico peruano, Walter Ventosilla narra una historia propia de la literatura romántica, extraída de la tradición oral de las serranías de Perú, con rasgos costumbristas y basada en la vida real.

El personaje principal como el título del libro lo manifiesta se llamó Luis, nombre completo: Telmo Luis Pardo Novoa dicen mis fuentes, pero pasó a la historia como Luis Pardo, un héroe, anti-héroe convertido en leyenda. Nacido en Chiquián, provincia de Bolognesi en el Departamento de Ancash al norte de Lima, el 19 de agosto de 1874 y muriendo el 9 de enero de 1909, a los 34 años de edad.

Luis Pardo es el Zorro, o si se quiere el Robin Hood de Chiquián en la serranía peruana sobre quien han escrito poemas, himnos, canciones, dramas y semblanzas escritores como José Diez Canseco, Alberto Ramírez y Oscar Colchado Lucio.

Ventosilla, en esta época sin héroes reales rescata a Luis Pardo como a una figura de carne y hueso que se sublevó ante al abuso de los terratenientes de su época y quien, a pesar de ser uno de ellos, optó por la justicia comezando por casa, dando así un ejemplo a seguir en contra del abuso de los gamonales para con los peones.

En ese sentido la novela trata un tema actual, tanto en materia de justicia social como en la importancia de volver la mirada hacia las raíces y cultivar a personajes históricos, por lo tanto imperfectos y vulnerables, hombres que se sublevaron ayudando con su vida y sus actos a denunciar el abuso a los más desposeídos, y a la vez legando con su muerte la consumación de una historia que no debía repetirse.

El aspecto humano del personaje aparece en sus debilidades de hombre: mujeriego (medio misógino) y bebedor, las que no son disimuladas, por el contrario, incomodan y ocasionan al protagonista una tragedia irremediable de la que extraer una lección, para que al final quede la leyenda de un hombre imperfecto que intentó hacer algo bien.

La narración de la historia va en dos tiempos, uno en el presente y el otro retrospectivo. La cuentan dos personajes: uno que vivió al lado del bandolero los momentos más importantes de su vida, hombre de la sierra que se expresa con el lenguaje propio de su calidad de peón, y quién se la cuenta al misterioso alter ego del narrador, cuya identidad (aunque quizás sospechada en algún punto de la narración ) se descubrirá totalmente al final de la novela para rematar el desenlace.

Así como los medios y los juegos de video venden, especialmente a las generaciones actuales, héroes ficticios, Ventosilla encuentra a través de este trabajo el modo de reavivar la memoria perdida en una sociedad de globalizado consumo dónde las nuevas generaciones aprenden sobre héroes virtuales con capacidades sobre humanas; esta novela, por el contrario, trae al presente un mundo real en un espacio y tiempos aún vigentes en la historia.

Walter Ventosilla con su novela Luis bandolero Luis rescata a un personaje a través del cual los lectores de esta generación, o sea los jóvenes en particular, dentro y fuera de Latinoamérica, pueden conocer a un héroe de carne y hueso, y no sólo consumir a los “bandoleros” “justicieros” que Hollywood inventa y hace famosos para vendernos una realidad ficticia.

The Inheritance of Loss – reviewed by Sarah Goodwin-Nguyen

“The Inheritance of Loss” by Kiran Desai

Grove / Atlantic, 2006, 324 pages

$24.00

Review by Sarah Goodwin-Nguyen

Kiran Desai’s second novel (after Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard) earned high

accolades including a Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award.  The Inheritance of

Loss examines weighty sociological themes like colonialism, revolution, and immigration.   To

do so,  Desai shuttles readers back and forth from a mountain village in Nepal to the back rooms

and basements of New York City restaurants.

The most engaging and immediate storyline involves Sai, a teenaged orphan raised in an

English boarding school who has come to live with her grandfather.  In her grandfather’s

decrepit, isolated house in the shadow of Mount Kanchenjunga, Sai falls in love with an educated

but lower-class boy hired as her tutor.

While Sai’s grandfather is immersed in his own memories, Sai is mostly looked after by

the grandfather’s devoted cook.  No one in the house suspects that Sai’s love, Gyan, has been

swept up in revolutionary spirit and involved himself with a loosely-organized, lawless band of

angry young men who call themselves the Gorkha Liberation Army.  The rebellion, which Desai

paints as stemming from an angry response to poverty rather than a noble quest for equality,

suddenly reaches Sai’s doorstep.

Gyan’s foolish betrayal of his young loverñinforming his friends that Sai’s house contains

firearms and liquor and has no young men to guard it– is not revealed immediately, though the

frightening home invasion happens at the beginning of the novel, which then works its way back.

This was a slight misstep on Desai’s part;  this scene is the most intense of the novel and would

have been even more chilling had we known Gyan was responsible.  That early on in the book,

the reader hasn’t yet learned to care for Sai or for the cook: the stakes would’ve been higher for

the reader had Desai waited.  It is the most engaging and well-written part of the novel,  marred

by an unnecessary, offbeat bit of timeplay.

Structurally, Desai also loses points messing with unnecessary subplots.  The main

subplot follows the tribulations of the cook’s son, Biju, an illegal immigrant in New York City.

Biju works in run-down kitchens, sleeping in basement apartments overcrowded with other

illegals.  He finds no reconciliation with his father’s expectations of life in America.  His father’s

misguided belief in the American dream is obvious in his letters to Biju, in which he implores his

son to help the sons-and-daughters of neighbors as they arrive to New York illegally by the day.

Biju avoids “the tribe,”–of course he has no work for them, no food for them, and no where for

them to sleep.   The author’s pointñthat it’s no fun being an illegal alienñis clear.  To top it off,

Biju is robbed by soldiers upon his return home, stripped of his meager savings as well as his

American clothes.    It’s an in-your-face reminder that Biju has failed to absorb anything positive

from his time in America.

The author also offers occasional portraits of Sai’s grandfather as he examines his own

past; first as an impoverished child, then a haughty young man being educated in England, then a

feared Judge and abusive husband to his wife-by-arranged-marriage.  The Judge is a frustrating

character who never repents his misdeeds–only that they come back to him threefold.  His

comeuppance is, sadly, at the expense of his gentle dog, Mutt, so the reader can’t even glory in it.

Bouncing between three major storylines is difficult enough.  Unfortunately, Desai didn’t

stop there.  Biju’s friend Saeed– a ladies’ man from Zanzibar –has his own tales to tell.  Much

time is spent observing an elderly, upper-class pair of sisters who live in Sai’s village as they get

ousted from their home by revolutionaries.   There is also Uncle Potty and father Booty who

accidentally run afoul of the law, plus a handful of other minor characters who frequently pull us

away from more layered stories.

There is a fine line between creating tension by interrupting a narrative at a crucial

pointñthe cliffhanger effectñand allowing a plot to lose momentum.   Balancing big themes with

multiple storylines takes a mature writer.  Desai mostly succeeds, but a more seasoned writer

might have excelled.

To Desai’s credit, she is ambitious and never afraid to take chances in her writing,

playing with poetic form or even shopping-list style passages.  When she is successful, she can

deliver a beautiful knockout of a line: “They took the toy train and went to the Darjeeling zoo

and viewed in their free, self-righteous, modern love, the unfree and ancient bars, behind which

lived a red panda, ridiculously solemn for being such a madly beautiful thing, chewing his

bamboo leaves as carefully as a bank clerk doing numbers.”

When her writing falters, the result can seem jejune:  “…the light shining through thick

bamboo in starry, jumping chinks, imparting the feeling of liquid shimmering.”  Nonetheless,

Desai is a novelist to watch, carrying her readers to an exotic emotional landscape.  Chances are

good that she will continue to grow as a writer, and whatever she writes after Inheritance may

well be her opus magnum.