In Her Powerful Debut Book, Lorraine Avila Gives Us the Stories of Complicated & Relatable Dominicanas

Illustration by Crystal Rodriguez

Dominican women are at the center of Malcriada & Other Stories. In the upcoming book by Lorraine Avila, through 16 stories, the author introduces us to a range of women – complicated, whole and incredibly relatable – as they make their way to the United States, learn more about themselves and face struggles.

One of the short stories, titled “Bodysuit,” breaks down how different experiences have shaped the perspectives of two Afro-Latina sisters. For the piece, Avila took inspiration from her own life. A few years after going to college, she was fired from a teaching job, which is when she started waitressing at a lounge in the Bronx.

“Quickly, I learned that one made more money serving bottles at night,” she tells Remezcla. “A huge chunk of the feminist theory I learned via college-level courses collided with what the job called for and the creative ways to make more money if desired. As a result, I would become irate when touched without permission or when spoken to by customers with sexual undertones. Some of my colleagues checked me on why they were flexible with their own boundaries. Still, I tried to impose my own ‘understandings’ on their realities despite my point of citizenship and education privilege. After a few months, my days and hours at work started being reduced since I refused to wear the outfits the other women in my job did. But I left with a much broader definition of feminism, womanism and who white feminism serves.

Read on below for an excerpt of “Bodysuit.”

Illustration by Crystal Rodriguez
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The outfit La Jefa got us for Memorial Day weekend is a royal blue, long sleeved bodysuit with silver trimmings. I wear see through stockings to hide the appearance of cellulite. La Jefa claims that when she orders these outfits she tells the seamstress to make the bottoms into shorts and it’s only because our asses are so grandiose that they ride up and become thongs. We all know she be lying. Pero it works, she claims, you want the bigger tips, si o no?

When Mami found out Lisbel was a girl she said, Bueno, that I can do. I know how to raise those without un hijo de la gran puta. She rubbed my head softly and placed my hand on her belly. Lisbel’s foot pushed off my palm as she kicked wildly. Chiquita, I said, I will always have your back.

Now, Lisbel is in college and always asks me questions that make me feel dirty. It’s not her intention, I know that, but I feel it in the tone she uses. I don’t know if it was college or entre Mami and my tías, but she has been taught to judge me. Her Instagram profile has quotes from women like bell Hooks and Cherrie Moraga—women I have never heard of before I search them up and realize I know nothing. Her profile icon is an image of women’s fists in different shades of brown against a hot pink background. Once I told her that women like Cardi B are feminist too. And she said, obvio que someone who didn’t finish college thinks that. When I cursed her out, she laughed and pretended she meant it as a joke. I let it go.

Cardi B’s “Bickenhead” is blasting when I walk into Cosmos, the club I work in. I approach the women, the ones who I have created bonds with because they do not make threats when their customers choose to be served by me once in a blue. In all honesty, nosotras sabemos que los hombres son asi—today it’s you, tomorrow it’s otra. We greet each other careful not to ruin our faces. It’s the song we have chosen since the album came out to warm up to. The bartender props her leg on the sink and twerks and immediately we are hyping her up in unison. I dance my way to the locker room glancing at the other girls, the ones who hurl threats quicker than they take breaths when their regulars look anywhere that isn’t them. They take selfies or make videos to post up. Ain’t nobody got time for that. The locker room is so bright it burns my eyes, but I know the lighting is perfect to apply foundation.

What’s your goal this weekend, Uribel? Rubia asks. She’s the only one here that has earned la confianza to call me by my first name. She sits on the chair next to mine and applies a red lip.

$3,000, girl, and that’s a reach, I reply. I dab on some concealer under my eyes.

It can be six, she says. Rubia is Colombian and always has access to real bank. She can afford to actually give zero fucks about the competition and pettiness in this place; a privilege she never fails to remind me she worked hard to gain. On my first shift, she gave me the best piece of advice I’ve gotten to date when I almost got into a fight con una tipa that appeared friendly at the beginning of the night. In the locker rooms, she said, everyone es gran amiga, but out on the floor, it’s vicious— especially for buenamosas like you.

I shake my head. I don’t knock the hustle, Rubia, It’s just not for me right now. I always add the right now part is an add on because I never know when I might change my mind; Mami is getting older, and I don’t want Lisbel to struggle to work and go to college. On top of that, I’ve worked all of my life. God knows I want a little luxury, a little comfort, from now until the end of my days.

Lorraine Avila. Photo by Cheril Sanchez. Courtesy of the author
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Excerpt from Malcriada & Other Stories by Lorraine Avila. Copyright (c) 2019 by the author and reprinted with permission of  DWA Press.​ Malcriada & Other Stories goes on sale September 27.