A Space for Writers of the World
I am from the Ranch: A spoken testimonio
In 1993 George Ella Lyon, a poet from Kentucky, wrote her “Where I’m From” poem (Lyon, n.d.). The poem begins with, “I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride. I am from the dirt under the back porch…” (Lyon, n.d., para 3) and goes on to share memories from childhood, smells, foods, and significant experiences. Lyon’s “Where I’m From” poem has inspired self-reflection and sharing in various education settings, camps, and even family reunions (Lyon, n.d.). Thus, Lyons has inspired exploration of the past through written and spoken poetry. Poetry is powerful form of performance narrative techniques (Chase, 2005). Specifically, Brady (2005) shares that poetics is an artful science, that “historical knowledge of any kind involves a culturally constructed, cognitively filtered, and reciprocal process, an apprehension and a representation of place to mind and back again, revolving and evolving in its constructions.” (p. 983). I have been inspired to use Lyon’s “Where I’m From” poem in facilitating social justice training and education, with professional adults and with elementary children. The latest version of my own poem, “I am from the Ranch,” was written to share with current and aspiring Latina/o graduate students. I share it with you below.
I am from the Ranch by Judy Marquez Kiyama
I am from the ranch – a stretch of land, deep in the river valley with so many stories and lessons to share. A land that my family has cultivated for generations.
I am from the ranch, driving in its silver gates, anticipating the smell of horses and the sound of rain on a tin roof.
I am from early-morning, cross-country flights where I am welcomed home by the warm Arizona sun and even warmer besos y abrazos from my large Mexican familia.
I am from English, Spanish, Spanglish – from trying many years to learn the language of my people and now trying even harder to teach it to my young daughter.
I am from the taste and tradition of my mom’s tortillas and beans, my gramma’s perfect enchiladas, and my nana’s legendary biscochuelos.
I am from new houses, new cities, painful losses and beautiful gains, with my best friend, my partner, together – always in pursuit of our educational and professional dreams.
I am from standing in line for government cheese when I was little; from going to mass every Sunday so I could be “good” – to questioning it all now that I am wise enough to question.
I am from being told, “You were hired because you are Latina.” To being asked, “Aye mijita, why does he let you travel so much?”
I am from libraries, classrooms, grading, and research. From Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, Junot Diaz, Barbara Kingsolver, the Latina Feminist Group, the Districts of Panem, and the Land of Narnia.
I am from the ranch, where doors aren’t locked, people aren’t fake, horses don’t judge, and having a PhD is no better than the strings of an apron.
I share this with you as a first-generation college student, as a Mexican-American embracing her Chicana activist identity, as working class kid, as a mother, as a scholar. These cannot be separated. These must not be separated. We can understand intertwining identities through the lens of Third Space Feminism. Perez (1999) shares Third Space Feminism with us as a site of negotiation from which marginalized women speak and their agency is enacted. This lens allows us to be attentive to the nuances of intersectionality. When I think about my journey through education, into graduate school and now as a professor, my intersecting identities have all at once become my strength, my lack of confidence, my imposter syndrome, my foundation, and ultimately, my pride.
It is in these intersecting spaces that we create counter narratives; we create testimonios (Beverly, 2005). I’ve adapted the following from the late Esther Madriz, an activist and sociologist who said, “Collective testimonies provide us with the possibility of breaking the wall of silence that has suppressed the expression of our ideas and our emotions” (Madriz, 1998, p. 116). In the pages that follow, we present our counter narratives, our testimonios, our assertion that we will no longer be confined by the wall of silence.
Beverly, J. (2005). Testimonio, subalternity, and narrative authority. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.) The sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 547-557). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Brady, (2005). Poetics for a planet: Discourse on some problems in being-in-place. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.) The sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 979-1019). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Chase, (2005). Narrative inquiry: Multiple lenses, approaches, voices. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.) The sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 651-673). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Lyon, G.E. (n.d.) George Ella Lyon: Writer & Teacher. Retrieved from http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html.
Madriz, E. I. (1998). Using focus groups with lower socioeconomic status Latina women. Qualitative Inquiry, 4(1), 114-128.
Pérez, E. (1999). The decolonial imaginary: Writing Chicanas into history. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama is an associate professor in the Higher Education department at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education. As a community-engaged scholar, Dr. Kiyama’s research examines the structures that shape educational opportunities for underserved groups through an asset-based lens to better understand the collective knowledge and resources drawn upon to confront, negotiate and (re)shape such structures. Her research is organized in three interconnected areas: the role of parents and families, equity and power in educational research, and underserved groups as collective networks of change.
Dr. Kiyama’s current projects focus on the high school to college transition experiences of first-generation, and low-income, and families of color and their role in serving as sources of cultural support for their college-aged students. Dr. Kiyama is also partnering with the College Academy for Parents at the University of Arizona to explore how college ideologies and funds of knowledge develop over time for Latina/o families. Dr. Kiyama was the recipient of the Association for the Study of Higher Education Council on Ethnic Participation 2014 Mildred García Junior Exemplary Scholarship Award and named a 2011 Emerging Scholar by the American College Personnel Association. Dr. Kiyama’s research has been published in the American Educational Research Journal, the Journal of Higher Education, and the Review of Higher Education.