Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels (Amazon | Book Depository)
Edited by Katie West and Jasmine Elliott
Published by Weiser Books (2019, first published 2018)
ISBN: 1578636701 (ISBN13: 9781578636709). Bought a copy of the book. Book quote layouts via Typorama.
I knew that I was going to purchase my own copy of this collection of essays as soon as I saw this being shared on Goodreads. I finally found time to read it while I was in New Mexico, killing time before and in-between flights.
There are 21 essays in this collection written by women who take pride in their witchiness, transforming their vulnerability into iron-fisted strength, their pain into a harpy’s shriek, and their traumas into mantras. Each hard-earned realization shared by the women in this collection was dipped in blood and other fluids, hair and bone, and put together as part of their self-soothing and redemption. It is not an easy read – there is still rage that not just simmers but given free rein to spill over here, the boundaries removed, the women taking full agency of their lives and where it leads through gayuma, nail paints, or red glitter.
Yet even as I applaud these women’s courageous evisceration of their anger through words, I also felt unsettled at the deliberate descent into “danger” as the title implied. This became even more embodied when I read J. A. Micheline’s Ritualising My Humanity:
We were born dangerous and are killed, disenfranchised, and disrespected with absolute impunity as a result. We have neither the luxury nor the privilege to become dangerous; we are too busy having to constantly prove to a white world that we are not. Your becoming is only meant to last insofar it allows you personhood; it can be shed and escaped at will. My birth is inescapable. It has been decided for me. It has happened to me. I can remake myself multiple times across a single day, but that externally-insisted danger will always be enough to take that personhood from me. And it is, at times, infuriating to see you symbolically pursue that which guarantees my lack of agency purely for the sake of your own. I’m filled with quiet resentment as you perform rituals of danger.
This essay underscored that the decision or resolve to “become dangerous” is in itself a form of privilege. The subtext here is that you aren’t perceived to be dangerous to begin with. The impact of intersectionality on exactly what it means to become dangerous was only fully argued and articulated with such full power in this essay.
It is to the editors’ credit that they tried to provide a highly diverse range, and why I also especially appreciated that there are contributions by two Filipina immigrants in this essay.
In Micheline’s essay, however, even while she has perfectly captured my unease with some of the essays I have been reading, I felt once again that the colours white and black are the only two opposing forces that matter – everything else in the spectrum and the in-between are largely unrecognized, dismissed, and set aside. Similar to my experience in reading Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (see my thoughts on Americanah and her discussions on race here), as a brown female reader reaching her mid-40s, I felt invisible in Micheline’s essay. I understand, though, that it may be not the author’s intention at all. This oppression cuts across all women of colour – as a linguist friend once said, we all have our own respective baggages, theirs just happen to be the Louis Vuitton of pain – but then again, this isn’t a contest. Yet there is still the struggle to be given space and be seen, even in tales of oppression, how very curious. I suppose this only means that there needs to be more narratives told from more women of colour, across the entire spectrum.
#WomenReadWomen2019: 40 (out of target 25): Scotland (Editor Katie West lives in Scotland)