Author Archives: Jennifer Tamayo


a status report on my piece from earlier this year: “To Being Unreasonable in 2015”

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LESSON #1:  Embrace your hostility. Be angry. Be a stain. Be what others call a “negative” person.  Create a “zone of hostility so large it creates a forcefield of care for yourself and your kin.”* Pick every last fight. Learn the words “go fuck yourself.” Wake up each morning and say: “Our mothers didn’t bring us here to shut up.” Those who do not want to hear your anger do not want to hear you at all. Those who wonder why you are so negative all the time don’t realize how vocalizing this anger publicly and loudly might, in fact, be part of your survival. 

LESSON #2: As a result of lesson 1, your inbox will become an unsafe space; don’t check it in public or late at night or too early in the morning. Or at the bar. Or on the train. Or before work. Take special care with emails from well-meaning white friends who have been confused by you: Are you referring to me in that tweet from 2 weeks ago???  2PM is the best time to check e-mail—far enough into the day that you can still make it through.

LESSON #3: Learn that your first English words, at the age of four, were HI! & PLEASE! & THANK YOU!—and that you were taught these words before you really knew what they meant. Learn that you performed them like a parrot to try to pass as American at an airport in Texas. Learn that from the moment you’ve entered this country, you’ve been excelling at passing, so this heartbreak you are feeling now, this unlearning that feels like death, this feeling that you’ve been a phony your whole life, is actually somewhat real, because, who are you? who have you been? Continue reading


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Marisa and I chatted about WEIRD SISTER over at the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog:

JT: What is a “weird sister”? How does one identify as or become a weird sister?

Marisa: I don’t think of a weird sister as a set or limited identity so much as a name that has a lot of literary, glittery, magic, strange, dark, dazzling and otherworldly connotations. A weird sister can be a witch, it can be a feminist, it can be someone who feels a little out of place or a little extra-awesome in her family or her community or the world…

Check out the full interview here…


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To Being Unreasonable in 2015

from Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s “How to Suffer Politely (And Other Etiquette for the Lumpenproletariat)”

in spring of 2014 you hear Alice Notley read for the first time in your life. because it’s spring, you wear the wrong things and end up with a pile of cardigans and scarves piled at your feet and tucked into your armpits. you drink champagne because you were, at the time, in a depression. hours earlier, the day of the reading, you had seen Alice in front of a Popeye’s in Bed-Stuy. you couldn’t be sure but you were sure; it was her. you felt it, and it was a strange thing to feel. the day after the Notley reading, you find a brick wall near your apartment and write out in capital mint-colored letters the only thing you remember from her reading: “I DON’T HAVE A PLAN/ I HAVE A VOICE.” you don’t know why you do it but you do it. this feels important.

a few weeks before the Alice Notley sighting, you go to a colleague’s poetry reading at Unnameable Books. afterward they are going to the Copula reading at Wendy’s Subway—they ask if you want to join. you want to and don’t want to—something feels off—and ultimately walk home sulking. you don’t know how to make friends and this has become a problem. you feel shy. or are you distrustful? people make you nervous and exhausted. especially poetry people—the possibility for false intimacy is high. to ease your anxiety, you tell yourself you would have just gotten drunk at Copula and would be hungover the next day. you know what that space is like. later in the night, you get a few texts telling you to come to Copula but you don’t. the moon is full inside you like a knowing thing. Continue reading


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Notes from a White Supremacist: A List of (White) Girls I Wanted to Be

White Supremacy Thing

I am sure I’m a sometimes white supremacist. In the States, growing up a “person of color” (what does that even mean?!?) means growing up suffocating in whiteness—a whiteness so beautiful and total its edges are implacable. For many of us, this translates into wanting “to be someone else,” as Morgan Parker suggests in her article for VIDA. Morgan wants to be Nancy Meyers or Diane Keaton (I’m not sure—does it matter?) and I want to be, have wanted to be, a slew of white things. At times consciously and intellectually—a sick fun—and at others not-so-consciously nor intellectually. Just painfully. A hate comes along with the wanting but it’s all there in a sometimes ecstasy-inducing rigmarole that I’ve labored to turn into writing or art.  Why I’m writing this down now feels like its own kind of art; an interruption by the way of naming. Continue reading


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For me, performance has always been about troubling the subject-object relationship, explicitly and directly. When done well, it explodes the relationships so that these positional categories are shattered, fragmented, and turned shrapnel. A good performance locates and dislocates the ‘you-ness’ and ‘I-ness’ from a centered and well-balanced place. and self/itness, whatever that might be for each of those positions, is momentarily dissolved. Yes—the performer acts, acts out or doesn’t act at all—observes—but the audience does too act—the audience responds, reacts, rewards. Sometimes the audience leaves—this is acting too. The performer instigates the you into a position of action. In my projects—see some here—the linchpin of each performance relies on my ability to submit to a fully selfish and selfless trance where the you/audience is doing the most acting, the most “work.”


On the weekend of October 10th, I performed as part of writer and performance artist Kate Durbin‘s Hello Selfie project. Performance instructions outlined cryptic guidelines like “You are a cat but you are also a girl” and “You have no mouth so you do not speak.” Our rehearsals included trying on the bob-style platinum blonde wigs, looking sad, acting like cats and—despite not really needing it—practicing taking selfies in various poses that read teen girl. This we did easily. We talked briefly of what to do in case of harassment and what to do if a police officer approached. We also talked about what to do in case of rain.




I spent the month leading up to Hello Selfie having bad-feminist thoughts. I made plans for rigorous workouts and dieting that never took place. Half of the time I spent considering my body’s flaws and the other half I spent hating myself for having these thoughts. I managed to negotiate my thoughts down to their scariest, barest bone: the possibility of NOT being considered a fuck-object, in the way many of us women are conditioned to understand our own value, feels like a kind of death via exclusion. The loneliest part: the acknowledgement that my fellow kitties in this performance were probably having these same concerns and the realization that solidarity in these thoughts didn’t make a difference to me. At all. We want to be revolutionaries, but desirable, pretty revolutionaries. So, I had my thoughts, the bad ones, and the good ones too, like, if you want to be a feminist, not obsessing over your appearance is how you enact feminism for yourself. The work of my feminism, at least some of it, starts with me and my thoughts.

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