Schoolgirls walk in front of a mural painted with the faces of disappeared girls. Local artists and families of the disappeared have been working together to raise awareness about disappearance in Juárez; they paint the faces of missing girls on the donated walls of schools, churches, and homes around the city. Photo: Alice Driver
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico was once known as the global murder capital. It’s no longer the world’s most dangerous city, but violence still haunts the town just over the border from El Paso, Texas. Alice Driver, a filmmaker, writer and photographer whose work focuses on human rights, feminism, and activism, has written extensively about Juárez. Her searing 2015 book More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexicodeals specifically with thedisappearance and murder of women in Juárez. The work, which grew out of her dissertation, blends theory with stories and interviews to explore not just the violence against women in Juárez, but also how that violence has been represented in media and culture. As Driver writes:
“To talk about feminicide is to talk about violence against women in all its manifestations, and in Juárez one of the most visible of those is disappearance. When women are murdered, their bodies don’t always appear. Often they disappear, and so the violence becomes unregistered, unrecorded, and seemingly invisible. This book is about the ways in which those bodies, whether identified or nameless, have been represented in literature, film, and art.”
At The Rumpus, Whitney Joiner recently interviewed Phoebe Gloeckner, author of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, the controversial illustrated novel about a girl who loses her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend, originally published in 2002, and just made into a feature film. It was the second time Gloeckner sat down with Joiner—a senior features editor at Marie Claire and co-founder of The Recollectors, a website and storytelling community for the children of parents who died of AIDs—the first time being a dozen years ago, for a Salon piece. This time, Gloeckner confessed that the story is autobiographical. The two also talked about the projects Gloeckner has been working on in Juarez, Mexico, including a novel based on one of the many young Juarenese women who have been killed there in recent years.
Rumpus: In the transcripts of our conversation last time, there’s a lot of discussion of why you didn’t want to call it an autobiography. At this point you’ve answered that so many times. I know you don’t like answering it. You talked about how, if it you’d written it as an autobiography, then you would hate her. You needed that separation because you needed to protect her.
Gloeckner: I had to look at her and accept her as any girl. But myself—I was ugly, I kept getting kicked out of school, I had no future, no one really liked me…
…I always resisted this thing about an autobiography, because honestly, what does it matter if it’s me or not. Every work of art is about the artist.
I’m finally admitting, yes, that’s my experience. I’ve given up trying to explain to people. It’s not like I just took my life; it’s not a document. I had no interest in saying, “This is me and this is my story.”
Rumpus: It’s easier to find compassion for a fifteen-year-old girl going through that kind of experience if it isn’t you.
Gloeckner: No one gives a fuck about an old woman trying to deal with her stupid past and problems!
I had all my old diaries and I was working from those. And I realized when I was reading them, I actually really liked that person.