Poetry. Latino/Latina Studies. LGBTQIA Studies. Women's Studies. BEAST MERIDIAN narrates the first- generation Mexican American girl, tracking the experiences of cultural displacement, the inheritance of generational trauma, sexist and racist violence, sexual assault, economic struggle, and institutional racism and sexism that disproportionately punishes brown girls in crisis. Narrated by a speaker in mourning marked as an at- risk juvenile, psychologically troubled, an offender, expelled and sent to alternative school for adolescents with behavioral issues, and eventually, a psychiatric hospital, it survives the school to prison pipeline, the immigrant working class condition, grueling low- pay service jobs, conservative classism against Latinxs in Texas, queerness, assimilation, and life wrapped up in frivolous citations, fines, and penalties. The traumatic catalyst for the long line of trouble begins with the death of a beloved young grandmother from preventable cervical cancer--another violence of systemic racism and sexism that prevents regular reproductive and sexual health care to poor immigrant communities--and the subsequent deaths of other immigrant family members who are mourned in the dissociative states amidst the depressive trauma that opens the book. The dissociative states that mark the middle--a surreal kind of shadowland where the narrator encounters her animal self and ancestors imagined as animals faces brutal surreal challenges on the way back to life beyond trauma--is a kind of mictlan, reimagined as a state of constant mourning that challenges American notions of healing from trauma, and rather acknowledges sadness, mourning, and memory as a necessary state of constant awareness to forge a way back toward a broader healing of earth, time, body, history.
Vanessa Angélica Villarreal was born in the Rio Grande Valley borderlands to formerly undocumented Mexican immigrants. She is descended from Silvia, Angélica, Carmen, and other survivors of colonization. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in PBS Newshour, Poor Claudia, Apogee, Waxwing, The Wanderer, Sporklet, DIAGRAM, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. She has served as an editor for the Bettering American Poetry project and is a CantoMundo Fellow. She lives in Los Angeles, but her forever hometown is Houston, Texas.