A Most Feminist Craft: Real Dreamscapes in Wendy C. Ortiz’s Bruja


A Review by Monique Quintana
Review: Wendy C. Ortiz. Bruja.
Publisher: Civil Coping Mechanisms
Release Date: October 31, 2016
Author Website:

Upon entering Wendy Ortiz’s new book, Bruja, you will find the definition of a “dreammoir”: “a literary adventure through the boundaries of memoir, where the self is viewed from a position anchored into the deepest recesses of the mind.” As you continue to read, this education proves to be a dark gift, a guide through a fevered archive of dreamscapes, where it is impossible to know exactly what is real and what is imagined, and thus, this becomes the very magic and blood of the book.

At first, Bruja reads like the fraternal twin sister of Ortiz’s last release, Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, 2015). While that was a lush ode to LA living, Bruja is charged with a darker energy, but reads just as quickly. Ortiz has turned blogging into the most feminist and eloquent art form, and this sense of craft bleeds into the pages of Bruja. Each dreamscape is like a quick pulse, a fragment, a paused or fleeting moment. Divided into sections that are marked with the months of the year, pages are wrought with images both mundane and surreal, “Black burn marks tattooed the carpets and ceilings. We’ve been knocked about like toys of unconsciousness.” This is what we get from Ortiz– tight clean prose, injected with the visceral, to unhinge our bones at the most opportune moments.

One of the most exciting things about Bruja is that it both echoes and adds a new chapter to the legacy of the Chicana narrative. I could not help but think of Anzaldua’s Borderlands, and like that book, Bruja queers prose and shows us the beauty of hybrid forms. Bruja is beguiling as prose, yet holds the looming precision of contemporary poetry. It is a woman’s voice floating in liminal spaces, a voice in a sort of limbo that is both unnerving and satisfying, “My mission was half complete, but now I had to transverse a lake with black dolphins, cavorting around me.” There are elements that ground the dreamscapes: a progressive pregnancy, which seems to be the amulet of the narrative and lovers and friends given one-syllable names such as S. and Sh. These are the hushed markers that remind us that this is still part memoir, the undeniable imprints on the female body and intellect.

Bruja is a very new book and one that will reverberate for many years to come. I was left feeling transformed in unexpected ways, and I will not soon forget how my own bruja was  confirmed and complicated and celebrated and validated. Bruja is crafted through feminism, and Ortiz curies magical things to women. It sometimes feels like the soft whisper in your ear, or a warm touch on the wrist, or a sudden tap on the ribcage. This book is healing, disturbing, and infected with all that is joyful and nightmarish about being a woman, mother, artist, and lover.

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