These days, I’m spending nearly all my time doing, researching and reading decolonial, intersectional feminisms. But since my work is now firmly situated in cultural studies rather than literary studies, all the fiction reading I get done tends to be escapist, white mystery literary production. You know, novels that don’t press my work button. While this is usually fine with me, because I do need a break sometime, it also means that a lot of great works pass me by. One such book is Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias, which I actually only stumbled on in my search for a library copy of Jewelle Gomez’ The Gilda Stories (the depressing state of German libraries, especially small-town libraries!).
Vourvoulias is a Latina activist, journalist, novelist and the managing editor of Al Día News. In Ink, published with CrossedGenre Publications, she takes up current immigration politics in the US and puts a dystopic spin on an already catastrophic reality. In a near future, Latin@s with a recent immigration history are marked by a biometric tattoo and collectively come to be referred to as Inks. The novel begins as the law to ink is passed and the policing and control of inked people begins with curfews and English-only ruInkles and spirals from there. Having grown up in Guatemala for the first 15 years of her life, these methods come from Vourvoulias’ lived experience. Ink is further animated by magical realism and the mystic, all the characters have some kind of magic, not that this provides them with a neat way out. The story is told by four characters with different relationships to Inks, and so far this narrative situation works amazingly well to show how racial hierarchies and privilege are negotiated as well as expose the way that the various characters work to uphold or challenge the system.
I’m so glad I found this work, I had to share even though I’m only halfway through. It’s probably a great read for anyone interested in women of color speculative fiction and social commentary. Ink is highly political and it is scarily easy to picture the path from current experiences of the undocumented to Vourvoulias’ warning vision of the future. But working aspects of Latina folklore and mythologies into the story, Ink foregrounds the healing power of community and memory and provides a counterpoint to the dominating dystopic future.