IN THE SHADOWS OF THE FREEWAY:
GROWING UP BROWN & QUEER
Lydia R. Otero
Paperback: 210 pages
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
Published: November 2019
A thought-provoking coming-of-age memoir about growing up brown and queer in a Southwest city invested in urban development
Raised in an adobe house built by their mother, the author takes readers to a mid-20th century barrio that existed on the social margins of Tucson, Arizona despite sitting a little more than a mile away from the central business district. Born in 1955, and nicknamed La Butch by their family, Lydia Otero knew they were queer the moment their consciousness had evolved enough to formulate thoughts.
In addition to growing up fighting assigned gender expectations, a new freeway greatly influenced formative aspects of Otero's childhood. The author witnessed how the steady expansion of Interstate 10 (I-10) separated and isolated a barrio of brown and poor residents from the rest of the city. Growing up 200 feet from the freeway meant more than enduring traffic noise and sirens for barrio families. It introduced environmental hazards that contributed to the death of family members.
The construction of the freeway also realigned school boundaries. Although able to attend the same the same schools as white children, the author details how Americanization policies and programs worked to racialize and separate brown students such as
Otero as late as 1961.
This book, which combines personal memoir and family history with historical archives, offers more self-disclosure than Otero's previous works, as the author's experiences of childhood take center stage. Otero reveals the day-to-day survival mechanisms they depended upon, the exhilaration of first love, the love of reading and the support the author received from key family members as they tried to gain a sense of belonging in a world mired in dislocation.
LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS
HAD THIS TO SAY ABOUT
IN THE SHADOWS OF THE FREEWAY
"Freeway Dreams" by Candice Yacano
APRIL 13, 2020
“I KNEW I WAS QUEER the moment my consciousness had evolved enough to formulate thoughts,” Lydia R. Otero writes in the introduction to the memoir In the Shadows of the Freeway: Growing Up Brown & Queer.
In this compelling examination, Otero draws upon decades of experience as a historian and associate professor of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona, as well as long-standing roots in Tucson.
"A searing memoir of legacy, loss, and love. Infusing historical research with childhood memories, Lydia Otero poignantly reveals the weight of urban development on Mexican communities in postwar Tucson. With rare insight, In the Shadow of the Freeway is a singular contribution to Latina/o history, urban studies, queer theory, and gender studies."—Vicki L Ruiz, author of From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America
"Otero's deeply compelling, meticulously researched, powerful memoir will resonate with many. Through masterful storytelling, the author unflinchingly explores themes of connection and disconnection, racism, erasure, queerness, struggle, joy, trauma, heartbreak, and love. Otero weaves their personal narrative with familial and municipal histories that were profoundly impacted by the destructive forces of white power structures that demolished neighborhoods in the twentieth century. This book is a cornerstone contribution to Tucson's history."—Jamie Manser, Zócalo Magazine co-founder
"Historian Lydia Otero employs the first person perspective to write themselves into the history of a working class barrio's devastation and endurance. Written with a cool, unpretentious ease, Otero's memoir makes a notable contribution to Queer and Latinx Studies while also reaching wide audiences interested in the politics of urban planning and development from a brown queer lens. This is queer of color theory born in the body and borders of the Southwest. A vital, unique, powerful memoir."—Emma Pérez, author of The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History
"A poignant, humorous and sometimes tragic coming of age memoir of sexual identity and racial and cultural awareness and empowerment in an historic era of great social change in Tucson. It tells a story that has not been told. A must read!"—Patricia Preciado Martin, author of Beloved Land: An Oral History of Mexican Americans in Southern Arizona and Songs My Mother Sang to Me: An Oral History of Mexican American Women