Anita Valerio

Anita Valerio’s essay, "It's In My Blood, My Face - My Mother's Voice, The Way I Sweat,"  begins in a style that would not fit in a traditional definition of rhetoric. She does not use periods or commas. Spaces separate some of her phrases at first, and as the paragraphs progress, more and more punctuation leaks into her writing. It seems as if she is using a form of prose poetry, spilling words that don’t necessarily fit with reader expectations in a way that still communicates, but that lacks a traditional framework. I don’t doubt that her choice is deliberate. The transition conveys the way that her identity is on borders and fluid.

She looks to both cultures to find the place of a woman, her place. “What does it mean that it is a holy woman who sets up the Okan? and why does it make her holy that only one man has touched her? is it really because she has been a good little piece of property to that one man or is it because she is a pure vessel of female power not permeated with the male?" (41). The answers to those questions can be used to define the power of a woman in that culture. Does a woman have power through action or inaction? Is she more powerful for having been less despoiled by man? Valerio wants to find what the tradition said before it was contaminated by Catholicism.

Her cultures clash again in conversation with her mother. The Indian culture speaks of ghosts and spirits as a part of life. But Valerio has learned at school to regard such things as superstition and "weird" - a word that is jarring to her mother's ears. Internally, her ability to live in that culture is affected by her lesbianism. They may believe in ghosts, but they also believe in women belonging with men. Not in so many words, not spoken aloud, but rather, her desires don't fit in with the limitations of that conservative aspect of her culture.

Despite the feeling of not fitting in her culture, Valerio still feels that the culture is hers, within her skin and blood. And perhaps it is for her to stretch her culture to fit her.

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