It’s rhubarb season, and, if you know what rhubarb is, I know what you’re thinking: pie, pie, pie. I hadn’t heard of rhubarb until I was 19 years old. That was the year I got to share a slice of strawberry-rhubarb pie with my friend Clara. That little piece of pie was delicious and life-changing. I’m serious. It helped me get a job, start dating Devin, and find myself in a perpetual pie contract. So yes, I know how good strawberry-rhubarb pie can be. But rhubarb is bountiful. It grows and grows and grows, and if all you’re doing is putting it in pie, you’re missing out. My first venture beyond rhubarb pie was this upside-down cake, which I highly recommend. Next I started putting it in salads. I’ve tried tons of salad recipes, most of which call for pickled rhubarb. And last spring, I figured out my favorite way to pickle it. A few people have asked for the recipe, so I’m sharing it here (though really, it is so easy, it hardly qualifies as a recipe. Perfect for summer!).
• 2–3 rhubarb stalks (depending on their size)
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup water
1. Slice the rhubarb in half-inch pieces
2. Place in a container that has a lid (I like to use a pint jar because the lid seals tightly).
3. Pour in the sugar, vinegar, and water.
4. Shake up the jar.
5. Make sure the rhubarb is completely covered. If you need, add a little more vinegar/water.
6. Leave in fridge for at least 2 hours (1.5 if you’re really hungry––but the longer it marinates, the better it tastes.
7. Serve with your favorite salad.
If you need a salad recipe to go with this, I like to use kale chiffonade, millet, strawberries, and toasted hazelnuts. Between the strawberries and the rhubarb, I don’t usually use a dressing, but you could always make a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, if you’re feeling fancy.
When I move to New York after college, I work at a restaurant where I meet a man who “works in publishing.” He’s an editor who comes into the restaurant alone to read book reviews and to meet with one of his authors. I tell him I want to work in publishing. He gives me a copy of an anthology he edited, invites me to a reading. The reading is in the Rare Book Room at The Strand, and it is Intimate. When I walk in and sit down, one of the authors featured in the collection turns to me and asks me who I know at the event. “I’m a friend of the editor,” I say. Her eyes narrow.
“No,” I want to protest, “The only thing I’ve ever given him is more water, a napkin, a spoon. The only thing he’s ever given me is a copy of this book. I liked your story in it.”
(One good thing about coming of age with digital camera technology is that I know exactly what I was wearing that day. I took a picture right before I left the house with the camera in my laptop. I stood on a chair in order to capture the whole look: a poofy pink skirt with a brown cotton jacket.
I’d decided to document my outfit because I wanted to remember the occasion –– my first literary event in New York City! –– and because I thought I looked like a cupcake in a crumpled paper bag. Hardly the outfit of a seductress.) But I am 22, and sometimes my body means things I don’t want it to. I want to ask the author, a stately woman with blond hair and pearls if she remembers her body being a hurdle to personhood, a threat to her safety. “When does it stop?” I want to ask. Instead, I read her mind. She is thinking about age-appropriate women who become ex-wives and the young women who “take” their places. She is thinking that men’s preference for younger women is really the preference to dominate. She is thinking, in short, all the same things I think, but she can’t see past my body, and she thinks I am the problem –– or at least, complicit. My face feels hot during the reading. I get my book signed by all the authors in attendance, trying to think of interesting things to say about each of their stories as I stand over them at the signing table. All of the authors are men, except for the woman who thinks I am bad. I leave quickly. The next day the editor emails me to thank me for attending the reading. He says he hopes “we’ll have more time to talk, next time.” I wait 12 days to write back. I re-read the email over and over, trying to figure out if his tone is flirtatious, before deciding that it’s not. In my reply, I try to sound like the professional I dream of being. I ask if would be possible for me to ask him some questions about his “career trajectory” and any advice he has “for someone hoping to work in [his] field.” He writes me an encouraging email, saying that summer is a difficult time for job hunting, but he thinks something good will come up for me soon. He offers to talk to me at the restaurant or at his “family apartment” in the city (something rich people who live in Connecticut have, I learn). I am working when he comes to the restaurant, so he suggests his apartment as the most logical place to meet. I spend the rest of my shift wondering if I should go or not. I text Devin to ask what he would do and he says he would go. I think about how Devin’s body has never been anything but safe, and I am sad and a little angry. (This, I think, is the hardest part about dating a straight White man: the window into an alternate existence, always just out of reach.) The career counselors from my college said, “Network, network, network!” I said, “How?” and followed their advice. 1. Find someone who has your dream job. 2. Invite them to get coffee. 3. Ask them about how they got their job, and see if they’ll help you get a job. The career counselors never mentioned that it might be harder for some of us to do this kind of networking. A college graduate is a college graduate is a college graduate, their “career tips” implied. I believed them at first. I spend the rest of my shift filling tiny to-go containers with salad dressing, answering the phones, refilling water glasses, and smiling at the customers. The whole time I am making a list. + He’s never been creepy. – But all our interactions have been in public. + His emails are business-y. – But why did the female writer look at me like that? Maybe she knows something I don’t. + Oh please. He probably suggested the apartment because he’s clueless. Maybe he’s hard of hearing. – Or maybe not. My shift ends and, despite my daydreams of visiting an apartment overlooking Central Park and launching my career with a firm handshake, I can’t make myself go. Instead I • walk to a street-level restaurant “overlooking” a subway entrance • stare at greasy croissants in a pastry case • eavesdrop on millionaire women • think about how patriarchy means circumscribed.
Today is my birthday, and I’d like to ask you a favor. If you’re a U.S. voter, could you call your legislators and ask them to pass a #CleanDreamActNow? All you have to do is click hereand fill in your information. Then, your phone will ring and you’ll be connected to Congress! (The website also has a call script, so you don’t have to worry about what to say.) The whole process takes less than five minutes, and it could make a huge difference. Even though approximately 80% of Americans* support a path to citizenship for DREAMers, Congress has refused to act. DACA permits are expiring every day, and things are going to get much worse after March 5th–– unless we make our representatives do their job and represent us.
I shared this a couple of months ago on my Instagram, but at this point in the season I need a reminder to make the most of winter, so I thought I’d share it again.
It’s taken me ten years of living in the North to realize that enjoying winter is as much about warmth as it is about light, but I finally feel like I know how to thrive in this season. Here are my hard-won tips:
1️⃣ Wake up earlier.
2️⃣ Throw on your most comfortable clothes.
3️⃣ Get out of the house or sit by a window—do whatever you need to get👏🏼that👏🏼sun.
4️⃣ And then, when you’re sleepy because it’s been night time since 4 PM, 😴 go to sleep so you can see the sun again tomorrow ☀️
…I should probably end this post here, but let me tell you about my seasonal sun analogy in case you’re curious about the underlying philosophy to this wintertime advice ; )
OK so, Summer Sun is like your super cool extroverted friend who goes to every party/brunch/concert/whatever. You don’t have to make plans to see her because she’s always down and all you have to do is show up to the party.
Winter Sun, in contrast, is like your kind, thoughtful introverted friend. You have to make plans to see them because they don’t go out much, but you always feel good about yourself and hopeful about the world after you hang out so it’s worth the extra effort.
(I only came up with Winter and Summer, but if I had to guess, I’d say Spring Sun is melodramatic but entertaining and Fall Sun is that one friend who’s always going on walks. What do you think?)
Did you know that in Mexico (and throughout Latin America) Valentine’s Day is known as the Day of Love and Friendship? (Colombia also celebrates el Día del Amor y la Amistad, but it’s in September, for some reason? Colombianos, explain yourselves. ; )
It’s always been one of my favorite holidays, for obvious reasons: I love pink. I love hearts. And I love friendship. I actually always forget that it’s known as a super romantic ~couple’s holiday~ and I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated in a couple-y way. I also always forget that the color red is associated with Valentine’s Day, so clearly I live in my own valentine bubble!
I do like to celebrate by throwing a big party with my friends and making my home as pink as possible. This year Devin and I made it a dance party, featuring some of our friends’ favorite songs (we asked everyone to include their favorite dance song when they RSVP-ed). It ended up being really fun, so I decided it would be fun to share the playlist plus a few photos of our Valentine’s Day treats!
In college, I told my mom I was in a group for women of color, and she looked at me unsure. “Are you a woman of color?” she asked. It’s the same look she gave me last month when we talked about race and migration. “I don’t really think of you as an immigrant,” she admitted. “But we moved here together,” I reminded her. “I know,” she said, and we laughed, remembering the things we went through. I’d get in trouble in school for following my teacher’s directions literally because that’s the only way I understood English. Drivers would stare at us on our walks to the grocery store––making it very clear that we were the only people who walked places in the Texas suburbs. A few months later, we were tricked into buying a car that would break down every 20 miles. After pouring water into the radiator or changing the oil, my mom would say “It’s God-powered, remember?” and I would nod, assured that our precarious rides were really miraculous adventures. My mom and I have gone through so much together, and yet I know exactly what she means when she wonders if I am a woman of color or a Mexican immigrant like her. Despite our similarities, in the United States, we have always been treated differently. I am perceived as White and American. She is perceived as brown and un-American. This difference in perception has enormous consequences –– consequences we’ll likely never know in full.
But, even though I have a lot of White privilege, I am often reminded of the fact that I am not White. In high school, I slept over at the house of a friend who told me her brother had been robbed while delivering a pizza in the “Hispanic part of town.” The next morning, I went home replaying her words in my head. I decided that she didn’t mean anything bad by it. I reasoned that she didn’t think that hearing “Hispanic” equated with “criminal” or “dangerous” would be hurtful to me because she didn’t think of me as Latina. I mean, we both liked feminism and indie music and writing instant messages in lower-case letters. We were in a lot of the same classes. As far as I was concerned, we were practically identical. A few months later, I was accepted to the liberal arts college she’d told me about, and I got a good financial aid package, too. She was a grade below me, and I couldn’t wait to tell her. “I got in! I got in! Now you just have to apply, and then we’ll go to college together!” In my mind, our future was set. Our lives would be a spinoff of a teen drama on the WB.
Her eyes narrowed, “I probably won’t be able to go,” she said, before telling me that she didn’t have my advantages. What could she mean by that? Was she saying that being Mexican and having a single mom were advantages, implying that I didn’t deserve to get in? I mumbled something about “need-based financial aid” and kept encouraging her to apply. I cried when I got home.
In high school, I rarely talked about race or my immigration story. I knew the kinds of things White people said when they thought people of color weren’t around, and it didn’t feel safe. (I wrote a little bit about this for Enormous Eye, under the section titled 1:43 pm, my mom’s car.) College felt safer. My roommate was from Miami, and she told me that even though her parents were from Venezuela, her mom loved Mexico and Mexican culture. Sometimes we’d stay up late, singing our favorite Alejandro Fernández songs, and I didn’t feel self-conscious speaking Spanish on the phone with my mom. One day, I was telling a story about my hometown in Mexico. A White friend of mine laughed and said, “I like you because you’re Mexican, but you don’t, like, make a big deal out of it.” Her tone was light, but it felt like a warning.
People often say things like this to me. Their words are subtle reminders that I can belong to their club, as long as I know my place.
* The title for this post is borrowed from the blog Conditionally Accepted, “a space for scholars on the margins of academia.”
I met Erica Garner on December 18, 2014. I know because I made a video of her singing “I Can’t Breathe” with fellow protesters on Staten Island that night. The song was inspired by Eric Garner’s last words and written by the Peace Poets (original version here). We sang it on the steps of the Staten Island courthouse after marching to protest the killing of Eric Garner by the NYPD and lack of justice in the case. Most of us sang:
“I can hear my brother crying ‘I can’t breathe’ Now I’m in the struggle, and I can’t leave Calling out the violence of the racist police We’re not going to stop [clap, clap] ‘Til people are free” But Erica sang, “I can hear my father crying ‘I can’t breathe,’” and I thought about how some of us choose to become activists and others have activism thrust upon them. I looked around. We were all protesting the same injustices, but most of us imagined those injustices abstractly. Erica lacked that luxury.
I had come to Staten Island after seeing a picture of Erica lying on the sidewalk in the place where her father died. She tweeted that she had been all alone that night and asked #BlackLivesMatter protesters to come to Staten Island, where she was protesting every Tuesday and Thursday.
I took the ferry to Staten Island the following week. We were a small group that night: 20, maybe 30 people. It was nothing like the big protests I was used to. Staten Island is the least populated borough in New York City. It felt desolate. Like it was just us and the police on the streets that night. As we marched, I was keenly aware that the cops shouting “Get off the street” and “Stay on the sidewalk” probably knew the man who killed Eric Garner.
We marched from the courthouse to the site of his death and back again. The march was subdued. It felt like a space to reflect on the life of Eric Garner –– a person with a family just like all of us –– and the impact of his death on his family, some of whom marched with us. We lay silently in the street at the site of Eric’s death for eleven minutes –– one minute for each time Eric Garner said, “I can’t breathe” while pleading for the police officer to release him. We marched back to the courthouse and sang on the steps.
After that, we boarded the ferry back to Manhattan. On the ferry, Erica talked about her dad who loved Christmas and her daughter Alyssa, who was five years old. The ferry was pretty empty, and it felt safe. Most of us were in our twenties or late teens. We talked about justice and freedom, but we also laughed and sang. Erica had sad eyes that reminded me of my mom’s. She had a slow smile that lit up her face. She sang and we sang along. She freestyled and we listened. When we got back to Battery Park, Erica and I stood outside the subway terminal, figuring out which trains would take us home. We both lived in Brooklyn, and we bonded over the fact that she lived in Williamsburg, which was my first New York neighborhood. She was one year younger than I am.
At the time, activists on Twitter debated whether Erica Garner should have a public platform because in her early media appearances, she said she wasn’t sure if racism contributed to the death of her father (because Black police officers also perpetuate police brutality).
I thought it was unjust to expect the young daughter of a police brutality victim to have a critical race analysis on par with scholars who have spent years studying racism. But she grew to be a powerful voice, challenging systemic inequality and fighting for change on every level. She understood that, as a result of the tragedy she endured, she had a powerful platform and decided to use it. Her biggest concern from day one was being an activist with integrity. Instead of partnering with big-name organizations, she organized marches on Staten Island by herself, on Twitter. She worked with the volunteers who showed up and marched along with her.
And she was relentless in her search for justice. She revisited her father’s murder over and over again because she wanted to make sure that no other daughter had to suffer like she did.
When we remember Erica Garner, we should think of an incorruptible activist dedicated to racial justice.