A Review of Muchacha Zine Issue #5: Brown Queen

DSCF0386I’ve been reading the Muchacha zine by Daisy Salinas for almost five years, but I just recently got around to reading issue #5 titled Brown Queen: Latina Voices of the 21st Century. This long zine (50 pages) hosts a multitude of Latina voices in the form of poetry, personal essays,  and art and photography. There is no organizing theme beyond attempting to convey the breadth of experiences for young Latinas living in the United States. A couple dozen writers contribute, along with a good number of pieces from Salinas herself.

The writing in this issue is consistently pretty solid, though a few pieces here or there lag behind. Still, even in the places where the writing lacks some polish, the deeply personal quality of these pieces, and their political importance, make them well worth reading. And there is some excellent writing as well. Angélica De Jesús’s poem about the importance of her name, and the name of her people, especially in the face of current xenophobic efforts to stamp both out, is powerful, as is Jordan Bauer’s poem “¿Hablas Español?” The poem “Britt” by Sarah Guerra is remarkable, as is Daphne Busin’s “Brazuca Soul,” in which she refutes the white identity people assume for her because of her light skin: “Under my white skin / My color fucking swims.”

Daisy Salinas’s pieces of writing through the book are characteristically strong, particularly her first, “Cow Blood Dripping: Bridging Two Separate Identities.” In this essay, she writes about her annual trips to visit her family in Mexico at Christmas, and how she kept this world separate from her friendships growing up in Tennessee. Most of her friends were white, and she assumed these spheres would never meet. When a close friend–a white girl named Kamryn–expressed a desire to travel with her one year, Salinas was initially reluctant, but they ended up traveling together. The trip was revelatory for both friends, and helped Salinas overcome her own fear these two halves of her life could ever understand each other. It’s a beautiful essay, and one that really spoke to me. I am a white man married to a Mexican woman, raising a Latina daughter. There is a tension between adoring the culture of my partner and child, and also recognizing I’m not brown and carry privilege into that space.

Brown Queen also features write-ups on a number of female Latin American musicians, all of whom were new to me. I am listening to one–French-Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux–as I write this review.

Daisy Salinas provides another excellent issue of Muchacha with this issue, and I hope she continues to do so. My daughter turns 9 this month, and I hope there are zines like this available in a few years when she is old enough to dive into them. Keep it up, Daisy. Your voice is important.

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