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Brown Neon

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A meditation on southwestern terrains, intergenerational queer dynamics, and surveilled brown artists that crosses physical and conceptual borders. Part butch memoir, part ekphrastic travel diary, part queer family tree, Raquel Gutiérrez’s debut essay collection Brown Neon gleans insight from the sediment of land and relationships. For Gutierrez, terrain is essential to und A meditation on southwestern terrains, intergenerational queer dynamics, and surveilled brown artists that crosses physical and conceptual borders. Part butch memoir, part ekphrastic travel diary, part queer family tree, Raquel Gutiérrez’s debut essay collection Brown Neon gleans insight from the sediment of land and relationships. For Gutierrez, terrain is essential to understanding that no story, no matter how personal, is separate from the space where it unfolds. Whether contemplating the value of adobe as both vernacular architecture and commodified art object, highlighting the feminist wounding and transphobic apparitions haunting the multi-generational lesbian social fabric, or recalling a failed romance, Gutiérrez traverses complex questions of gender, class, identity, and citizenship with curiosity and nuance.


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A meditation on southwestern terrains, intergenerational queer dynamics, and surveilled brown artists that crosses physical and conceptual borders. Part butch memoir, part ekphrastic travel diary, part queer family tree, Raquel Gutiérrez’s debut essay collection Brown Neon gleans insight from the sediment of land and relationships. For Gutierrez, terrain is essential to und A meditation on southwestern terrains, intergenerational queer dynamics, and surveilled brown artists that crosses physical and conceptual borders. Part butch memoir, part ekphrastic travel diary, part queer family tree, Raquel Gutiérrez’s debut essay collection Brown Neon gleans insight from the sediment of land and relationships. For Gutierrez, terrain is essential to understanding that no story, no matter how personal, is separate from the space where it unfolds. Whether contemplating the value of adobe as both vernacular architecture and commodified art object, highlighting the feminist wounding and transphobic apparitions haunting the multi-generational lesbian social fabric, or recalling a failed romance, Gutiérrez traverses complex questions of gender, class, identity, and citizenship with curiosity and nuance.

30 review for Brown Neon

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    This was definitely outside my usual house (I read it for a queer book club) but there was a lot that I liked about it. It is still more academic than I usually read, but the subject matter was really fascinating. And while I am not going to read a whole book about art criticism, for example, the way Gutierrez mixed in her personal stories with the bigger ideas she was grappling with worked. It's worth noting that all the academics in my book club found it super readable, so if that's you then i This was definitely outside my usual house (I read it for a queer book club) but there was a lot that I liked about it. It is still more academic than I usually read, but the subject matter was really fascinating. And while I am not going to read a whole book about art criticism, for example, the way Gutierrez mixed in her personal stories with the bigger ideas she was grappling with worked. It's worth noting that all the academics in my book club found it super readable, so if that's you then it'll feel a lot more digestible. But if you're like me it'll take some effort. I was glad to have the imposed deadline. I was also really worried in the first essay that it would go to some not great places. A lot of butch lesbians have treated trans masc folks badly, but Gutierrez can see that happening without joining in. A lot of the book is about the way things change through generations, including queer identity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    The promotional material for Raquel Gutiérrez's Brown Neon describes it thusly: "Part butch memoir, part ekphrastic travel diary, part queer family tree, Raquel Gutiérrez’s debut essay collection Brown Neon gleans insight from the sediment of land and relationships." Really, I can't sum it up any better than that. Gutiérrez is a brilliant and original thinker with a prose voice that moves between the erudite and the informal. My favorite parts of this essay collection were those dealing with butc The promotional material for Raquel Gutiérrez's Brown Neon describes it thusly: "Part butch memoir, part ekphrastic travel diary, part queer family tree, Raquel Gutiérrez’s debut essay collection Brown Neon gleans insight from the sediment of land and relationships." Really, I can't sum it up any better than that. Gutiérrez is a brilliant and original thinker with a prose voice that moves between the erudite and the informal. My favorite parts of this essay collection were those dealing with butch identity in the range of nonbinary forms it takes these days and the sections on immigration, which make it soberingly clear the human lives at stake along the U.S. border. The sections about underground and cutting-edge art scenes were more difficult for me—because I know very little about that topic and couldn't necessarily pull up my own information about the artists and works that they discuss. Because Gutiérrez thinks richly—and compels readers to do the same—this is an excellent title to keep bedside and devote one's self to from time to time. That lets one barrage of ideas settle before the reader takes on the next. Gutiérrez is saying things that matter immensely and deserves the attention a thoughtful reading requires. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from EdelweissPlus; the opinions are my own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Alonso

    Gutiérrez's debut collection tackles themes of butch history, activism, immigration, geography, and art, and that's barely getting at all the complicated ways these themes interact and become informed by each other. It was great. Gutiérrez's debut collection tackles themes of butch history, activism, immigration, geography, and art, and that's barely getting at all the complicated ways these themes interact and become informed by each other. It was great.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    In Brown Neon, Raquel Gutierrez's essayist abilities bring about a conversation on art, queerness, butchness, and brownness. Gutierrez opens their collection of essays telling us the story of her time with Big Poppa, a singular figure who shaped queer history, politics, and rights from the 70s onward. In this essay, she discusses the tension between those who lean towards butchness and those who choose to transition and the beauty that lies between. From there Gutierrez discusses her Latinx expe In Brown Neon, Raquel Gutierrez's essayist abilities bring about a conversation on art, queerness, butchness, and brownness. Gutierrez opens their collection of essays telling us the story of her time with Big Poppa, a singular figure who shaped queer history, politics, and rights from the 70s onward. In this essay, she discusses the tension between those who lean towards butchness and those who choose to transition and the beauty that lies between. From there Gutierrez discusses her Latinx experience and its intersections with her queer and working-class identities. An artist and art critic theirself, Gutierrez centers her writing on these topics around queer, brown artists and brings light to their work. Brown Neon left me wanting more of some parts and less of others. Gutierrez's essays on gender and butchness were novel and contributed important thoughts on the topics, but some of her art essays seemed more like insider topics in which she personally knew artists few other of us do. Either way, Gutierrez's voice is one I'll definitely read again.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    "If there was anything to do with your privilege, it was to risk it. And it would never be enough" (73). "Living in the borderlands, you count among your friends and neighbors those who want things to be different here. We use our time to stay aware, to be in service. We live here to embody the lesson that everyone should be entitled to improve upon the conditions of their life" (77). "Our historical imprints enhance the value of a neighborhood. Our histories sell, whereas our lives obstruct pro "If there was anything to do with your privilege, it was to risk it. And it would never be enough" (73). "Living in the borderlands, you count among your friends and neighbors those who want things to be different here. We use our time to stay aware, to be in service. We live here to embody the lesson that everyone should be entitled to improve upon the conditions of their life" (77). "Our historical imprints enhance the value of a neighborhood. Our histories sell, whereas our lives obstruct profits" (123). "For Abramovic, performance 'is the moment when the performer with his own idea steps into his own mental, physical construction [of that idea[ in front of the audience. For Abramovic the blood and knife are real, whereas in theater they are not" (187).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    Overall a very thought-provoking collection of essays, but sometimes the language and references went way over my head, which is no one's fault, but I also felt like some of the essays had a looser structure than I would've preferred (though I'm sure that's also partially the point). Those two things make for 4 stars instead of 5, but this is still an incredible book. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in essays written by a queer Latinx artist who deftly examines all the aforeme Overall a very thought-provoking collection of essays, but sometimes the language and references went way over my head, which is no one's fault, but I also felt like some of the essays had a looser structure than I would've preferred (though I'm sure that's also partially the point). Those two things make for 4 stars instead of 5, but this is still an incredible book. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in essays written by a queer Latinx artist who deftly examines all the aforementioned intersections of identity in interesting and beautiful ways.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kandace

    Loved this collection of essays by Raquel Gutiérrez. Reviewed it in my newsletter - subscribe to seeeeeeee! www.tinyletter.com/ArtofKCF Loved this collection of essays by Raquel Gutiérrez. Reviewed it in my newsletter - subscribe to seeeeeeee! www.tinyletter.com/ArtofKCF

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    My biggest complaint with this collection is probably that I read it too fast. I actually found the writing to be really soothing, especially the essays related to landscapes in CA and AZ. I also appreciated the unique queer perspective of Gutiérrez. The summary blurb is accurate.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mari Lewis

    At times beautiful, moving, embodied, meditative and/or urgent, this essay collection was above all uneven. I am an academic and thus I don’t shy away from the type of mixed-genre essay that weaves academic theorizing amidst other modes of thought and reflection, but too often in this collection it felt like important aspects got lost. The opening section was, for me, the most successful, with the final section the least. Much was of interest and all was worthy of thought; Muñoz’s influence was At times beautiful, moving, embodied, meditative and/or urgent, this essay collection was above all uneven. I am an academic and thus I don’t shy away from the type of mixed-genre essay that weaves academic theorizing amidst other modes of thought and reflection, but too often in this collection it felt like important aspects got lost. The opening section was, for me, the most successful, with the final section the least. Much was of interest and all was worthy of thought; Muñoz’s influence was clear in the best moments, and finding out they were Gutiérrez’s advisor thus did not come as a shock. There was so much worthy and haunting thought and image happening, especially around lost loves and the border wall/border crossings/existing in the spaces near the border. In contrast, I found many of the essays (ironically) about performance art extremely hard to access and parse, as the (often cursory) descriptions of the pieces were often left disconnected from deeper theorizations. I could have used either less description or more gloss; the long-winded descriptions of performances simply left me bored, and I was happy to be finished with the final section (whereas earlier moments left me wanting more).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    I started reading this on paper and then switched to audio about halfway through. I would recommend reading a print copy. Gutiérrez is discussing a lot and it all feels like inside baseball, which I appreciate. This book largely felt like an exploration of identity and home, i.e. how can we be ourselves in bodies and societies and places and even relationships that don't always feel welcoming? and what does that even mean? does it even matter? I'm summarizing this collection in questions because I started reading this on paper and then switched to audio about halfway through. I would recommend reading a print copy. Gutiérrez is discussing a lot and it all feels like inside baseball, which I appreciate. This book largely felt like an exploration of identity and home, i.e. how can we be ourselves in bodies and societies and places and even relationships that don't always feel welcoming? and what does that even mean? does it even matter? I'm summarizing this collection in questions because the work felt more thought-provoking than explanative. We are following Gutiérrez as she lives her life and thinks about her life. I enjoyed the exploration of queer dynamics and relationships the most because it was the most relatable. Like a lot of the queer non-fic I've read this year, I was reminded of how much we'd lose if we didn't get these stories. What stopped this from being a five star for me was that I sometimes got lost in Gutiérrez's analogies and metaphors. In a sense, the text is dense which is why I'd recommend readers read instead of listen to the book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This was one of three essay collections that I read this summer, and it was just as good as the others. I enjoyed all the references to so many books and artists that I've loved, and even more all the new ones I was looking up while reading it. Adding to my list of things to read, and see. Growing up for part of my childhood in Tucson the desert is a really significant space to me and Guitierrez captures it so well . . . the literal and figurative desert. These excellent, smart, and fascinating This was one of three essay collections that I read this summer, and it was just as good as the others. I enjoyed all the references to so many books and artists that I've loved, and even more all the new ones I was looking up while reading it. Adding to my list of things to read, and see. Growing up for part of my childhood in Tucson the desert is a really significant space to me and Guitierrez captures it so well . . . the literal and figurative desert. These excellent, smart, and fascinating essays about art, and people, and places are so fresh and interesting. It made me remember why I like reading about art almost as much as I like seeing it. And it takes a talent to do it well. With heart. And honesty. And this book does all of that.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia

    Very arty. Not really my thing, but moving, and beautifully written.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    I’ve already made my mind up that I can’t write a review of this collection of essays until I’ve gone over this collection at least three or four more times.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tessy Consentino

    Perfect, thought provoking essays.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Austin Brown

    3.5

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    Occasionally a bit too academic for me, but beautiful and thought-provoking all the same.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Theo Dora

    “it is the poets job to make you fall in love with the idea of state flowers”

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark Chavez

  19. 4 out of 5

    Angelica

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ash Dahlke

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jill

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

  24. 5 out of 5

    Pilar Garza

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carl Swischer

  26. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Perri

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fuckyoucharles

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lou Corn

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lupita Reads

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gary

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