Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Guest-Blogger Trudy Balch: 5 Things Gaby Brimmer Loved, Or Would Have

After a hiatus while I've been on the book tour, the Wednesday 5-links guest-blog post is back! This week's is by Trudy Balch, writer, editor, and translator of both Spanish and Ladino. Her latest translation, just out from Brandeis University Press, is from the Spanish: Gaby Brimmer: An Autobiography in Three Voices. Gaby Brimmer (1947 - 2000) was a Mexican writer and disability rights activist. Born with cerebral palsy, Gaby communicated largely by typing with her left foot or by using her foot to spell out words on an "alphabet board" at the base of her wheelchair. Notes Balch, "The feature film Gaby: A True Story was based on her experiences, with the original Spanish version of this book a prime source. Renowned writer Elena Poniatowska structured the text to alternate Gaby’s voice (including her poetry) with those of her mother and her caregiver, creating a riveting conversation-like effect."
5 Things Gaby Brimmer Loved, or Would Have
Gaby Brimmer was a voracious reader and writer who published several other books, as well as articles and individual poems. In her introduction to Gaby’s life story, Elena Poniatowska recalls how Gaby’s mother, Sari, proudly showed her Gaby’s bookshelf, whose contents ranged from Spinoza, Marx, Bertrand Russell and Gabriel García Márquez to Dostoevsky, Jung, Max Weber and Rosario Castellanos. "I have a cause, and maybe that’s why I write," Gaby declared. "I want to tell the world that I’m fighting for myself and for my people... I want us to have equal opportunities to live, to fight, and to be ourselves." Here is some of what she held dearest or might have:

Gaby and a group of friends founded the Asociación para los Derechos de Personas con Alteraciones Motoras (Association for the Rights of People with Motor Disabilities) in 1989. Originally an advocacy group, it now concentrates on rehabilitation services. To see a series of photos of Gaby, enter the site, click on "Gaby Brimmer" and then scroll through the introduction.

2. Gaby: Un año después
Yet to be translated into English, this 1980 collection of Gaby’s poetry sold 20,000 copies when it was published in Mexico City. Though out of print, as are her published letters (Cartas de Gaby) and the short story collection Disfraces y otros cuentos, these books are often available through used book dealers and in libraries.

3. Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life
If Gaby had lived to 2005, I’ll bet she would have read Harriet McBryde Johnson’s witty, insightful, irrepressible memoir. "You're easy to deal with," Johnson’s father tells her. "As long as you get exactly what you want and no one gives you any shit."

4. Elena Poniatowska: An Intimate Biography
Had she lived to 2003, Gaby would likely have read the bestselling Spanish original of this biography, entitled Elenísima: ingenio y figura de Elena Poniatowska The English version was published in 2007.

5. The Mexican Revolution by Adolfo Gilly
Gaby did read the original Spanish version of this book, mentioning it in Gaby Brimmer during an imaginary conversation with her typewriter, which she named "Che" (after Che Guevara). Critic Carlos Monsivais has called Gilly’s volume "a splendid amalgam of political history, dialectic analysis, a vision of a people in arms, and an uncompromising demystification."

--- Trudy Balch

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.