• The Black Syllabus

Review | The Letter Formally Known As Q

To be clear, I don't believe in borders. Borders are so fucking useless. Purposeless. You build enough of them around yourself and sure enough, you've got yourself stuck in a windowless box with a sinking floor.

Musinguzi, N. (2021). The letter formally known as q: Voices from Minnesota's queer immigrant community. Wise Ink Creative Publishing.


Themes

Joy

Home + Community

Migration + Immigration

Borders

Queerness

Gender + Transness


Review

★★★★★

My sweet, talented friend Nancy Musinguzi recently published this awesome book! I moved to Minneapolis in June 2021 and Nance was one of the first friends I made. They invited me to their book launch where attendees pondered what a world without borders would be like, feel like, look like, smell like, taste like. The Letter Formally Known As Q connects the themes of home, borders, immigration, community, and queerness in a seamless way that propelled me to further investigate how I define these themes for myself. Nance and their book came into my life during a time when I was discerning the indispensability of community and actively interrogating what home meant for me, how that meaning is connected to my desire to understand my Nigerian ancestry more intimately, and how queerness and gender expansiveness are inherited from our ancestral cultures. The weight of colonization, with its violent implementation and maintenance of borders, impacts this relationship between home, ancestry, and identity. How might we breathe a little easier without the hinderance of borders?


Needless to say, I am grateful that this book and this human came into my life when they did. Nance and their interviewees were very vulnerable and honest within these pages. I appreciated being able to read these perspectives on a topic close to my heart from a community that welcomed me with open arms. I loved that none of the interviews seemed edited; they read like authentic conversations. I liked being able to hear the rhythm of those verbal exchanges and that the unique voice of each interviewee shone through the pages. (Did I mention that Nance is also an extremely talented photographer and that the portraits in this book are their work as well?!) I’m grateful for the invitation into these intimate stories and highly encourage folks to check out this beautifully curated book!


You can learn more about the author and purchase the book here.


Further Reading

Alexander, M. J. (2006). Pedagogies of crossing: Meditations on feminism, sexual politics, memory, and the sacred. Duke University Press.

This book was mentioned by interviewee Qui Alexander, who reflects, "You know, there are all these ways that history tells us that we can't believe these accounts unless we can prove them to be real. And because so much of our stories had been taken from us through the Middle Passage, there's now a lot of Black scholars doing these kind of like speculative studies of ... what it might have been like, or any type of Queer intimacies that might have existed between people who had this experience where they were put on a boat together" (84-86).

Luibhéid, E. & Cantú, Jr., L. (2005). Queer migrations: Sexuality, U.S. citizenship, and border crossings. University of Minnesota Press.

"Focusing particularly on migration from Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, and the Philippines, Queer Migrations brings together scholars of immigration, citizenship, sexuality, race, and ethnicity to provide analyses of the norms, institutions, and discourses that affect queer immigrants of color, also providing ethnographic studies of how these newcomers have transformed established immigrant communities in Miami, San Francisco, and New York." For more on this topic, check out Lionel Cantú's additional work, including The Sexuality of Migration: Border Crossings and Mexican Immigrant Men.

Sinnott, M. (2010). Borders, diaspora, and regional connections: Trends in Asian "Queer" studies. The Journal of Asian Studies, 69(1), 17-31. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021911809991586

"The turn to issues of transnationalism, diaspora, and border crossings works toward interrogating and deconstructing assumptions of Westernization or identity categories that fall along [certain] binaries. Within this growing literature, authors struggle with representing forms of same-sex sexuality and transgenderism as complex responses to, and extensions of, culturally determined systems of gender, nationalisms, capitalist labor and consumer practices, urbanization, and transnational movements. [How exactly] sexuality and gender categories work across and through boundaries is an important new direction. This essay will examine several of these recent texts and explore the ways in which they engage with the themes of boundaries, borders, and diaspora" (shortened for brevity; p. 17-18).

White, M. A. (2014). Documenting the undocumented: Toward a queer politics of no borders. Sexualities, 17(8), 976-997. https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460714552263

"This article explores the challenges of developing queer migrant justice strategies within nation-state contexts. With a focus on the Toronto-based ‘Let Alvaro Stay’ campaign (2011) and Julio Salgado’s collaborative ‘I Am Undocuqueer’ project, I critically examine queer anti-deportation activists’ reliance on methodological nationalisms and visibility politics in making claims hearable to the state. While such tactics risk reinforcing the nation-state as a primary site of identification, thereby contributing to its naturalization as an inevitable horizon of belonging, I argue that they also open space for imagining queer(er) no borders futures" (abstract).


Eler, A. (2022, Jan 2). Book by Black Minneapolis photographer shines a light on queer immigrants of color. Star Tribune.



If you need access to any of the articles linked above, email hello@blacksyllabus.com.

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