Book Reviews

For Brown Girls: Review by Elizabeth Garcia

In her collection of essays, For Brown Girls With Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color, Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez speaks to the experiences of “Brown Girls” through a critical feminist lens.  Bringing a fresh perspective as a Nicaraguan American she broadens Latinx feminist writing, which often center the experiences of Mexican American women. Going beyond familiar themes like toxic masculinity and the gendered upbringing of many Latinas, she also critiques the colonialist tendencies behind mission trips in places like Nicaragua, addresses the limits of academic knowledge, and speaks about self-care from a Latina perspective.

The author calls her book a “a love letter to women of color,” emphasizing the significance of balancing feminist activism with self-love and care.  While her essays speak to experiences like imposter syndrome and feeling excluded in spaces of higher education as a first-generation Latina immigrant student, experiences that are challenging and painful, her goal is to give voice to these experiences from a place of love.  By sharing her personal experiences, she aims to role model for other women of color how to navigate these challenges and reach a place of self-empowerment.  For instance, in her essay on toxic masculinity, she shares her experiences with the men in her family and how they upheld a limited view of what she could do as a woman.  When speaking about colorism among the Latinx community, she speaks of her experiences with her mother, who consistently admonished her to use sunscreen to prevent her skin becoming darker.  Thus, she brings these conversations closer to home, to the men and women in our own families.

In addition to broadening conversations on various feminist issues, she also claims one of her goals is to “democratize knowledge.”  Her inspiration for this goal comes from feeling excluded and marginalized throughout her educational experience, including her years in college. She critiques academia as a space incapable of liberation for BIPOC people because they are institutions that were created for white men.  Her writing thus, avoids using academic jargon, and writes about concepts such as decoloniality and intersectional in a manner that is accessible and relatable to a wider audience outside of academia.

While in Guatemala she immerses herself in the mountainous rural region of Quezaltenango, where she heard stories from local ex-guerrilleros who fought in the civil war. After her time in Guatemala she gains some first-hand understanding of the country that shaped her father, but also realizes that her experience is unique from her father’s, as an American who has grown up with the privileges of living in the United States as an American citizen.

Finally, in her journey towards self-love she writes about accepting her own “chonga” aesthetic. “Chonga” is one among many terms used to describe young Latinas who unapologetically express themselves through makeup, dress, and what she describes as “bad ass” attitudes. This aesthetic is one that is consistently demonized by mainstream culture and media. Yet, for Latinas it is meant as a bold resistance to assimilation and whitewashing.  A component of self-care and self-love for Latinas is to embrace every aspect of themselves and resist pressures to “fit in” to belong.

For Brown Girls is truly a “love letter,” boldly giving voice to the many experiences women of color endure but often keep to themselves, while reminding us that we are not alone, to embrace our whole selves, and that our adversities have given us the strength with which to resist. 

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