Tortillera: Poems (The TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series)
Texas Review Press (2021)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (12/2021)
This compelling collection of poems focuses on what it’s like to be a Cuban lesbian. When it comes to the word “tortillera,” it means lesbian, but as the poet explains in her works, this word is a loaded gun…a verbal assault. However, it doesn’t mean that the poet takes it to heart. She wears the label proudly, in fact, like a badge of honor. And as you read this volume, it will take you inside the author’s experiences that resulted in this striking cache of poetry.
Caridad brings you into her world from the very beginning in a personal, intimate way; it’s as if she is telling her secrets to you alone. The detailed-filled scenarios are vivid and weighty. You’ll experience obesity battles, postpartum depression, and even walk the halls of a motel that holds “whispers.” Her first love experience with a woman is described, as well as the heartbreak of divorce, and a sex life driven by abandon. You’ll read of her upbringing, culture, coming-of-age, self-realization, and both the happiness and pain—the double-edged sword—experienced when coming out.
Most of all, you’ll find truth in these poems. The poet’s truth, as well as some universal truths. Even if you don’t agree with the theme of the book, or parts of it make you feel uncomfortable, it’s an eye-opening experience that will help you better understand the dynamics of what the gay community deals with on a daily basis. Some passages are painful to read about, but they also offer an avenue of hope and healing. These sensitive poems paint a portrait of courage through adversity. Each poem touches upon a slice of life—whether it be about love, family fractures, boldness, loss, or confusion—and each one is a brick in the building of this stirring body of poems that are beyond memorable. I especially liked the visceral lines of “What I Should Have Said, Instead.”
If you enjoy personal poems that house a universal message, you will fall in love with “Tortillera” by Caridad Moro-Gronlier.