Erika Lopez, Flaming Iguanas: An All-Girl Road Novel Thing
Erika Lopez’ honest, humor, and colloquial yet assertive voice, for me, plays an incredibly important role in the novel as it allows her to communicate complicated ideas on gender, race, and realizing one’s identity in a way that many girls who feel misunderstood by mainstream society can relate to, regardless of whether they have taken a gender studies class or not. Throughout the whole book in fact, she brings up thoughts and feelings many girls, especially of my generation have had and writes about them as if writing a diary entry, yet constantly analyzes her action, bringing to light new insights on her ever shifting identity. Her meditations on race for example reflect a kind of confusion of place, or rather, of where she belongs culturally and socially that women of color can especially relate to. Her thoughts on the subject become extremely subversive, such as when she expresses her desire to “speak in twang and belong to the KKK. Experience the brotherhood and simplicity of opinions.” (pg. 28) This need for belonging takes on an extreme, emotive quality, and in a way serve as the colorful reflection of the many essays and journals written on racial dynamics within patriarchal systems that put her experiences and experiences like hers into theories and thesis statements. This is not to say that journals of this type don’t have a purpose. They have a way of articulating information that allows people to distance themselves from damaging social constructs, analyze them, and invent ways of combating these harmful structures as well as understand them better. Yet for the most part many of these sources for political enlightenment remain out of reach for those not heavily involved in academia. Many may not even have the chance to go to a school where such texts can be taught and dissected in the classroom, thus, while effective, such sources of information have a very limited audience. Authors like Lopez provide a unique service to her many women, minorities, and queers who read her books and society overall: she gives them the tools to discuss and validate their feelings towards their families, friends, communities, and their own identities. She encourages honesty and the desire to become a self-actualized human beings despite America’s habit of disapproving that which does not fit within the norm. Most importantly, she demonstrates bravery in the face of confusion and uncertainty about one’s place in the world, and I believe that her works can contribute directly to a dramatic increase in self-assured young women both able and willing to challenge the constructs they have long since outgrown.