Talking Back: Voices of Color
Edited by Nellie Wong
Red Letter Press
240 pages, Illustrated
Book Review by Kam Williams
“As a feminist of Chinese American roots, my disrespected skin color and low-paid status as a secretarial worker shocked me into a realization that I've embraced now for many years: the knowledge that racist, sexist, anti-queer, anti-trans, anti-worker discrimination leveled against one is leveled against all.
We must seek integration into revolutionary change, not into business-as-usual capitalist America that puts people of color and women in chains. That's what's necessary. Through this collection, readers are given a rare jewel: a gem ablaze with the colors of working-class voices, rather than abstractions from lofty academic towers.
The offerings... speak out [about] the fight for quality public education, reproductive justice and freedom of expression, and an end to police violence and war... and much more. To whom do we talk back? To those who will silence us... These voices of color matter. They need to be heard.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (page 10)
Nellie Wong was born in Oakland, California at a time when Chinese females were uniformly raised to obey rather than question authority. Consequently, she would dutifully marry, have kids and take employment as a secretary, all in accordance with narrowly-defined cultural expectations.
However, Nellie finally started to shed society's shackles in the Seventies when she started taking courses in writing and Feminist and Asian-American Studies at San Francisco State University. Curiously, that path in pursuit of personal liberation simultaneously made her very aware that members of other minority groups were also marginalized, whether black, brown, indigenous, lesbian, gay or transgendered.
Nellie subsequently not only found her voice as a politically-motivated poet, but she got involved in the liberation movement as an organizer and activist. And over the ensuing decades she has remained an unrepentant advocate for social justice.
So, it only makes sense that at 80 years of age, she'd serve as editor for Talking Back: Voices of Color. The book is a collection of enlightening essays authored by a rainbow coalition of next generation firebrands exploring a litany of hot-button issues ranging from racism and feminism to terrorism and immigration to education and sexual preference.
Global in scope, the opus not only addresses the concerns of the oppressed in the U.S. but of folks as far afield as the Middle East, Australia, Central America, Europe, Asia, Canada, South America and even Australia. Leave it to Nellie to sum up the tome's simple aim ever so eloquently by quoting the late James Baldwin who, as she's quick to point out, was both black and gay: “You write to change the world.” Hear, hear!
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