Form and Content in Cherie Moraga’s Writing

             Having Cherie Moraga come to class was most valuable to me because of what she said about language and rhythms.  It is a fairly widely used practice, particularly for poets or writers who have come from poetry, to play with the form of their writing, but I’ve never really seen it done in the way that Moraga did it — specifically with the oscillation because ‘cuz’ and ‘because’ within the very same piece.  I was initially confused as to why she would use both in the same piece of writing, but it made much more sense to me when she said that it indicated different rhythms and waves of feeling within the piece.  This brings me to the core question of this post; if every writer wrote with his or her own specific sense of vocabulary and rhythm, as Moraga did, would we have a more accurate cultural and social understanding of many groups, as opposed to the white heterosexual voice which seems most dominant, or at least common, in American literature? 

              The most overt example of this is in Moraga’s initial disclaimer of her use of the word ‘MeXicano’ and ‘Xicano.’  Moraga uses the very opening of her piece to explain her use of these spellings and the significance of it, and the placement of this segment is very significant.  Often, explanations of a literary choice that the author is going to make or clarifications of a term will appear either in a footnote, or at the very beginning of the piece but demarcated with the title of ‘preface’ or ‘a note on the work.’  Admittedly, I have many a time skipped reading a footnote or a preface because it seems less important than the body of the work; these disclaimers of placement and titling come, for me at least, with the implication that it is of secondary importance to the body of the work itself.  Moraga does not wish to disclaim her choice in any of these ways, or assert that it is secondary in any way.  The inclusion of this section with it’s own title (‘A Xicana Lexicon’) indicated to me that it was of equal weight to the Chapter One: Existo Yo that follows it.  In ‘A Xicana Lexicon,’ Moraga makes several clarifications that at first glance may seem technical, but upon further investigation allow us to more clearly understand the culture, values, and vocabulary with which the group that Moraga represents speaks with.  For example, when she says, “I continue to capitalize and do not hyphenate people-of-color identities…The writing style was an act of racial and cultural identity-affirmation, intended to distinguish us from the assimilationist agenda of mainstream America” (xxii).  The capitalization (or lack thereof) of people-of-color identities is a small detail that can be easily overlooked within a text, and sometimes seems like an arbitrary decision made by the author.  However, because Moraga takes the time to explain to us her reasoning, we not only understand the significance of the choice, but we are subtly reminded of it each time it appears; to me, this appears to be the perfect way to infuse form with content and meaning.  This explanation gives us a cultural understanding of a group that may be different than our own, and therefore infuses the work with additional layers of meaning that enhance the project of the piece.  To answer my initial question, if every writer (and not just minority writers) wrote like Moraga did, I think that it is indisputable that we would have a more accurate, balanced, and complete social and cultural understanding of many groups, and that it would enhance the social value of creative writing.  If creative writing (that is, writing that deviates from the form of traditional academic writing) were a space where authors commonly made these types of choices and explanations as a section of the body of the piece itself, I think it would add tremendous value to our culture and elevate creative writing to a higher place in the social consciousness.   [669]

— W

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