Happy Monday! Today, we zip back to San Antonio, Texas where Joe Jiménez is currently spending his time teaching high school students. He participated in our San Anto fundraiser last year, and believes in making the writings of marginalized voices accessible. Check him out below!
Third Woman Press Collective (TWPC): Hi there, Joe! We’re stoked to be chatting with you today, thanks for setting time aside for us. Let’s begin with where you’re located geographically.
Joe Jiménez (JJ): I live in San Antonio, Texas, near downtown in a very old house.
TWPC: Nice! This next question is important because of the potential for so many different answers; how do you define your feminism?
JJ: My definition of feminism is rooted in praxis. I feel privileged to have received a solid education at Pomona College and again at Antioch University in Los Angeles, which trained me to think about the world critically, to see and critique the systems at work that offer advantages and safeguards to some–often at the expense of others. I teach at the high school level so working with high school seniors at an inner-city public high school allows us the opportunity to explore critical theories such as Marxism and Feminism as we read, talk and question, and read, write, rethink, and question some more. Often our discussions are rudimentary, structuralist arguments as to how devices reveal meaning –as our course requires. But sometimes, our discussions are magical, as with our discussion of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, where students critiqued the role of women’s bodies in this text about a father and son’s survival in a post-apocalyptic world of cannibals and suffering. If given tools, I do believe young people can intervene in systems of thought and action that cause suffering and injustice. Giving tools, sharing them, offering access—it is arte del pueblo (art of the people).
TWPC: Any acts we make to convey our feminism to the world are so crucial, we’re happy to hear you’re able to help the youth in your community think critically about themselves and the world they live in. What keeps you busy, besides teaching?
JJ: I spend much of my time with my partner and dogs, at the gym, at home, reading, writing.
TWPC: Excellent! We’re glad that you’re spending time doing things that you love. We also want to thank you again for your participation in the San Antonio event! What was your favorite detail, performance, interaction, etc., from the fundraiser?
JJ: I vividly recall Anel’s chicle (chewing gum) piece. An avid gum chewer, I will never again view chewing gum the same.
TWPC: That’s the point! We love that moment when someone’s art sticks with you (pun intended). What kinds of tips do you have for emerging feminist artists?
JJ: For emerging feminist artists, I offer the advice of allowing oneself to become. Embrace the idea of giving oneself permission to experiment, to synthesize, to believe in the beauty of havoc and form and lungwork. Forget the trend, forget what garners applause—instead, speak and work for what is necessary. How you define that necessity? How you articulate it? That is the work.
TWPC: Wonderfully said. Finding yourself is one of the most radical journeys one can ever undertake, and it translates so beautifully into art if you let it. Is there any specific area, field, or place that you feel really needs a feminist intervention right now?
JJ: Public education is in dire need of a feminist intervention. I teach Senior English and am firmly opposed to the irrelevance of many of the British literature texts we are supposed to be guiding our students in reading. Even after the American Revolution, why continue to bow down to Imperialist ideas? Why doesn’t our state adopt standards that encourage the study of American literature, in all its multiplicities, in all its magnitudes, versus a year reading texts from a country most of our students will never visit? Do I completely dismiss British lit in high school classrooms? Of course not. But why make it mandatory? A richer learning experience would be the study of more texts that mean more to most students’ lives than the old canonical ones ever would. The act of buying or donating a class set of books, good books, worthy books, books that mean something purposeful to inner-city and working class students—imagine the opportunities afforded to kids in my classroom through reading Alice Walker’s The Color Purple versus Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (a text which came along with our textbook and is recommended for our use).
TWPC: We couldn’t agree more. It’s important for students to see themselves reflected in what they study. What sorts of things do you like to do for fun?
JJ: For fun—trees and birds and shorelines, arroyos and stones and my journal, all the questions and wonder and the things I will never know but can hear calling to me as I sit in the shadows of mesquites, lechuzas, tlaquaches, and oaks. Recently, I have been spending time at San Antonio’s National Audubon Center at Mitchell Lake. I enjoy learning the names of birds and native plants, learning their attributes, their roles in the ecosystem, their places in the great order of living things.
TWPC: That sounds nice, we’re happy you’re finding quiet time with the natural landscapes of your area. Since you helped TWP raise money, what is one thing that excited you about the revitalization or what would you like to see TWP do overall?
JJ: I am enthralled by the idea of new voices. For people like us, access is often the one thing we require in order to be heard. TWP is precious in so many ways, and I honor the opportunities it extends to us to hear, study, learn from, and question new voices. In this, I am grateful to the long line of efforts in the tradition of Moraga and Anzaldúa and Cantu, in the efforts of Herrera Lozano at Korima and Ramírez here with TWP. In the movie Contact, I remember Jodie Foster’s character saying, “The world is what we make of it.” She was encountering a great injustice that had denied, for the moment, her opportunity to pursue her dream. And to this work, I say, “Yes, yes, and yes.”
TWPC: We thank you again for your contribution in helping us create avenues through which the writings of women of color can be accessed through!
Joe Jiménez is the author of The Possibilities of Mud (Kórima 2014). Jiménez was the recipient of the 2012 Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Prize and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. He lives in San Antonio and is a member of the Macondo Workshops. For more, visit joejimenez.net.