For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color by Prisca Dorcas
Xolo Score 4.75/5
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez, founder of the hilarious and unapologetic social media account Latina Rebels shares her knowledge and experiences as a university-educated Nicaraguan raised in the United States. For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts is both a memoir and manifesto. The book shows how powerful forces like meritocracy, colorism and white supremacy affect women of color and what readers can do about it. Mojica Rodríguez believes that writing this book and expanding access to the knowledge she’s gained from her time at different universities helps us take back gatekeepers’ power.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
Mojica Rodríguez shares how she once believed in the myth of meritocracy and how it influenced her pursuit of two university degrees. Eventually, her university experiences taught her that universities are gatekeepers of knowledge that “use the myth of meritocracy to distract busy working-class and working-poor folks with so much self-blame.” Mojica Rodríguez sheds light on how unfair it is for the university classroom to create this false idea that all students can accomplish success if they “work hard enough.” Unfortunately, as a woman of color, even after obtaining the coveted degree that came with so many sacrifices, it did not make the many systemic impediments disappear that her professors SWEAR no longer exist.
And throughout the book, Mojica Rodríguez acknowledges she is speaking about the experiences of women of color, such as colorism, as a non-Black Latina. Her experiences with oppressive systems stemming from white supremacy are valid, but they will never be the same as those experienced by the Black community. She talks extensively about how some Latinx communities internalize racism and become “Brown white supremacists.” She firmly stands in rejecting anti-Blackness because no matter how enticing proximity to whiteness may seem, history demonstrates a false sense of security and an illusion. Favoring whiteness gives gatekeepers tools to keep communities of color fighting each other and self-fastening handcuffs.
It was great to read Mojica Rodríguez’s insights through her sharp Spanglish tone. It’s both a nod to her roots as well as a tool of liberation from a society that shames you for not fluently speaking a colonizer’s language. “[Her] overall posturing in Spanglish feels like coming home and taking off a bra.” And it signals to the bilingual reader that they have the right to take up space in literature and anywhere a gatekeeper says no
For Brown Girls With Sharp Edges and Tender hearts will stay with readers who force space for themselves in a white supremacist society.
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To what extent are there BIPOC leading characters or perspectives?
How well does the author avoid writing BIPOC experiences through the white gaze?
To what extent does the author challenge white-centered beliefs?
How well does the book explore nuances between intersectional identities?