Zavella authors new book about reproductive justice

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Pat Zavella, professor emerita of Latin American and Latino studies, has published a new book about the reproductive justice movement that blends research, history, theory, and memoir.

In her new book, The Movement for Reproductive Justice: Empowering Women of Color through Social Activism, Zavella showcases the collaborative work across racial lines of reproductive justice organizations and suggests that it provides a compelling model for truly intersectional social change movements.

Zavella draws on five years of ethnographic research to explore collaborations among women of color engaged in reproductive justice activism. While numerous organizations focus on reproductive justice, most are racially specific, such as the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum and Black Women for Wellness.

Zavella reveals that many of these organizations have built their own coalitions, shared resources, and supported each other. Though some coalitions are national, most are regional, and the organizations themselves have remained racially or ethnically specific, which presents unique challenges and opportunities for the women involved. These organizations provide a compelling model for negotiating across differences within constituencies, according to Zavella.

The Movement for Reproductive Justice demonstrates that a truly intersectional movement built on grassroots organizing, culture shift work, and advocating for policy can offer visions of strength, resiliency, and dignity for all.

Zavella’s interest in the movement for reproductive justice is rooted in her own experience. She describes firsthand the trials and judgments she experienced as a working professional mother of color: her commitment to academia was questioned during her pregnancy, as she was shamed for having children "too young." When she became a professor, she felt out of place as one of the few female faculty members with children.

Zavella joined the faculty in 1983 and undertook years-long ethnographic research projects to document the experiences of Mexican Americans and migrants, exploring themes of family, work, identity, and immigration.

She is the author of I'm Neither Here nor There: Mexicans' Quotidian Struggles with Migration and Poverty, and the coauthor of Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios. She also coedited Women and Migration in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: A Reader.

Zavella was a prominent member of the Social Sciences Division, serving as chair of the Latin America and Latino Studies department from 2007-2011 and again from 2014 until June 30, 2016. She also served as director of the Chicano/Latino Research Center and was selected in 2008 to deliver the Faculty Research Lecture, an honor conferred by her colleagues in the Academic Senate. She retired in 2017. She received her undergraduate degree from Pitzer College, and her masters and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. She had a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford's Center for Chicano Research before joining the UCSC faculty.

Her new book is being warmly received, drawing praise from scholars and activists.

"With deft and nuance, Zavella provides a comprehensive and compelling overview of the U.S. reproductive justice movement," said Lisa García Bedolla, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the Graduate Division at UC Berkeley. "Her accessible, vibrant prose will leave readers both moved and inspired by this extraordinary movement.”

Loretta J. Ross, co-Founder of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, called it "an impressive, meticulously researched book."

"Zavella has expertly used her talents as an amazing writer to capture the voices and lived experiences of women of color who developed innovative praxis through reproductive justice activism," said Ross. "Rarely do writers who use reproductive justice in their titles have such a profound grasp of what it really means like she does.”