And we’re back! This week we take the conversation to the Midwest. We wanted to know a little bit more about Jessica Lopez Lyman, a good friend who organized a TWP Fundraising Crew for us last fall, so we interviewed her. Check out this amazing muxer below.
Third Woman Press Collective (TWPC): Hey, Jessica! Thanks for taking time aside to chat with us. Can you start by telling us what your current geographic location is?
Jessica Lopez Lyman (JLL): I live in the heart of the growing Latin@ community in South Minneapolis, but was born and raised the majority of my life in St. Paul, Minnesota. The mighty Mississippi River divides the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul). Most folks rep one city or the other and rarely cross the river. I guess you could say I’m living in nepantla, drifting between both places.
TWPC: You nepantlera, you. Can you tell us about what keeps you busy? What kinds of organizations are you a part of?
JLL: I’m finishing my PhD in Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. When I’m not working on my dissertation, I’m taking minutes as Recording Secretary for Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, or volunteering at my friends Chaun Webster and Verna Wong’s new bookstore. Ancestry Bookstore is in North Minneapolis and prides itself on carrying Indigenous and People of Color authors. The children’s section is my personal favorite along with the “Local Luv” section that features some of the best of the Twin Cities—Bao Phi, Ed Bok Lee, Sherry Quan Lee, Emmanuel Ortiz, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, David Mura, Heid Erdrich, Melodee Strong, and many more.
TWPC: Ancestry Bookstore sounds like an awesome place! It’s great hearing about places that support people of color who express themselves in ways that allow us to relate to each other. Speaking of connecting with likeminded people, what influenced your decision to help fundraise for Third Woman Press?
JLL:This Bridge Called My Back called me into being. As a mixed-race Chicana from Minnesota it was difficult to find myself reflected in everyday community, let alone in print. I remember picking up the maroon cover edition, the binding falling apart much like my self-esteem at that time—tattered, tired, trying to remain in one piece. The words ripped through my body and landed in my heart. Reading about yourself when you have always felt alone changes you, as so many other feminists of color have expressed. I can’t speak for why others joined in the efforts to fundraise for TWP (although I’m sure our reasons would be similar), but I felt compelled to give time, energy, and eventually money to an organization that publishes work that has sustained me for many years. At the same time, TWP is more than a publishing company. TWP is one of the few places where our very existence as feminists of color is acknowledged and affirmed. When the world is constantly trying to erase your identities or challenge your experiences, spaces like TWP are invaluable.
TWPC: That feeling of shared identity is definitely part of what fuels us, too. Thank you again for all of your efforts toward helping TWP! What was your favorite part about the fundraising event? It was arts-based, correct?
JLL: Yes! The Minnesota TWP fundraising crew was fantastic! We had young people from El Colegio (a local high school in Minneapolis), undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Minnesota, teachers, community artists, and even small children as young as six. Minnesota can be a very isolating place and depending on the area difficult to find Latin@ culture in public spaces. Our fundraising collective helped in countering that. Working together we created art—hand painted bookmarks, calavera earrings, bottle cap rasquache style earrings, velas with famous feminists of color. Fundraising for TWP provided an opportunity for us to strengthen the community of muxeres in the Twin Cities. At the end of the day, learning about each other, listening to each other’s stories, and sharing practical art making skills was the ultimate reward.
TWPC: Wish we could have been there to help! We really loved all the crafts y’all put together. People outside of the Twin Cities wanted some, too! Thank you for being willing to ship. Any activities you do to specifically recharge after doing community organizing?
JLL: Sports and physical activity have become increasingly important to me. I watch the Lynx whenever possible and have respect for both Shoni Schimmel of the Atlanta Dream and Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs. Two years ago I started playing fútbol for the first time. My partner introduced me to Left Wing, an anti-imperialist, non-competitive style of play where the score is always 2-2. There are teams in Oakland (the original), L.A., D.C., and now in the Twin Cities. We play every Sunday at the park by my house. Also, I’m part of a Radical Ass POC Fiction Book Club (that’s really the name). Between sports and art I’m more than motivated to keep doing the work I’m passionate about.
TWPC: That sounds great! (Sara and the Texas interns are loving the Spurs love.) You’re definitely busy, muxer. Is there any specific area, field, or place that you feel really needs a feminist intervention right now?
JLL: There are so many! The prison industrial complex is the first that comes to mind. Maybe it’s the Orange is the New Black binge that I am slowly awakening from, but I believe strongly that prison abolition is not possible without feminism. Whether we’re talking about Stop and Frisk, exploited labor, or the school-to-prison pipeline, the principles of feminism, particularly those by developed and maintained by feminists of color, offer a plethora of possibilities for changing the current system. The immigration movement (especially the Undocuqeer movement) and Trans Womyn of Color movement are two powerful spaces where we see a glimpse of feminist intervention in the prison system.
TWPC: The prison industrial complex is in definite need of feminist intervention. We’re hoping our first anthology gets to touch on that particular topic, and if it doesn’t, then we need to go there next. Tell us what else do you like to do for fun … besides binge watching Orange is the New Black?
JLL: Ha! Cooking without recipes is a low-risk adventure for me. I have a turtle, Selena Shelly, who is a major flirt and always entertaining. My partner and I also have two dogs, Cuca and Nogi, which we enjoy taking for walks around the park or snuggling with on the couch.
TWPC: Awww! Cute! Here’s our last question: since you helped TWP raise money, what is one thing that excites you about its revitalization? Or what would you like to see TWP do?
JLL: Books, books, and more books! No matter how many blogs or twitter accounts there might be, I still think books are a vital vehicle for cultivating critical thinking, forming community, and creating change. It doesn’t hurt that books also satisfy the nerd in me.
TWPC: Of course, we absolutely agree, Jessica! There’s nothing like holding a book and feeling the age—old or new—of pages that seem to speak directly to you.
Jessica Lopez Lyman and the Twin Cities TWP Fundraising Crew helped us raise over $1,000. We thank them all, including—Emilia Gonzalez Avalos and daughter, Joanna Núñez, Irina Barrera, Reina Corina Rodríguez, Maritza Zarate, Alex Mendoza Covarrubias, Idalia Robles De Léon, Tania Torres, Luna Bella Patiño, and students from El Colegio High School and the University of Minnesota—very sincerely for their support of TWP. If you want to learn more about Jessica’s as an activist-scholar, visit her personal website, jlopezlyman.com. Don’t forget to stay tuned for next week’s feminist fistbump!