Courtesy / Bárbara Renaud González
Bárbara Renaud González can write, but did you know she can act?
I first met Renaud González in Dallas during the mid-1990s. We were both cast by director Adelina Anthony in Cherríe Moraga’s Shadow of a Man, Cara Mia Theatre’s first production, in 1996. She’s not a trained actor, but I will never forget her energy onstage. It’s the type of energy you can’t learn in an acting class. Every moment onstage with Renaud González felt dangerous, like it was the first time the moment was happening, even though we had rehearsed for weeks. Her energy was infectious, honest, and pura Chicana. Renaud González’s writing has the same energía.
Did you notice my code-switching right there? English-Spanish code-switching is now mainstream. Renaud González’s new collection, Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writings by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995-2005, shows off her masterful use of code-switching.
Renaud González is puro showmanship on the page, pura personality, toda energía. She finds truth in stories that could only be told as an insider. She’s not faking with the English-Spanish voice. She really talks like that. Renaud González is puro authentic, a style that is now often replicated in all types of media. She legitimized code-switching by writing in that style for newspapers in Dallas and San Antonio, back in the early '90s when gente still read the print versions.
Renaud González’s introduction to the book is a disclaimer, “pa que no chi…” She believes she was the first Chicana writing regular monthly columns for a major newspaper in Texas. Más o menos. As a freelance writer, she claims to retain the rights to republish these works as a collection.
I’m glad she did. Reading these stories as a retrospective takes the reader on a Chicana-Tejana feminist journey through Texas politics and social justice issues. On the pages you’ll find the columns she wrote in Dallas and San Antonio, plus other writings such as poetry and even a University of Texas at San Antonio “Despedida” to graduates.
The work is important because it’s archiving a distinct Chicana feminist voice in one source. The national book launch for Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writings by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995-2005 is Friday, April 28, at 6 p.m. at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center at 922 San Pedro Ave. It is free and open to the public and will feature a reading by Renaud González and other authors.
The Rivard Report spoke to Renaud González about her columns and the city from which she draws inspiration.
Rivard Report: The essays in your new book span 10 years, 1995-2005. You were in Dallas, then San Antonio. What's the difference, if any, writing for readers in these two Texas cities?
Renaud González: The difference between San Anto and Dallas … San Anto is imbued with Chicanx culture. It's in the air, the wind, the missions. There is a reason so many writers are here. A great city for writing if not always for selling books. I live in the kind of neighborhood I grew up in. Working-class. Frijole-steam. Dogs barkiando. The revolution of Tex-Mex. The resistance. I need this to write. This is home.
Rivard Report: It's a unique publication. What compelled you to collect and republish these essays as a collection?
Renaud González: I was asked to submit by a couple of publishers, but I'm impressed with Aztlan Libre Press. We desperately need our own publishers. We need to be the New York City publishers of the Southwest.
Rivard Report: You have a provocative voice. You name names. You call it like you see it. What's the [published] story in the collection that brought you the most heat?
Renaud González: Several brought me lots of heat. The former Archbishop came after me regarding the "Ay, Henry" piece, saying I was promoting adultery after Henry's [former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros] affair. He read me too simplistically. "Brown Men Can't Run," the men at the [San Antonio Express-News] demanded I get fired! My ex-husband called and said, "You went too far." They also missed my point. Weeks of columns and agitation.
Rivard Report: Your book launch includes readings by Nadine Saliba, Maria Salazar, Araceli Herrera Castillo and Muerta-Paz Con-Corazón Sin-Guerra. Who are these mujeres and how does their work relate to yours?
Renaud González: These women are great writers, and not well known – yet. Nadine and Maria are published. I want Friday night to be about voice. I am not the only woman with a provocative voice. All have inspired me in different ways. We have to support each other, because our pens are far more powerful than guns.
Rivard Report: What are you writing now?
Renaud González: I'm working on an adult fairy tale. It's about a little girl who is the daughter of the moon, though she doesn't know that. Arrives in a river-city that is suffering drought. The men are beating up the women and the dogs, too. The city's name is Adivina.