TwERK (Belladonna*), LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs
sound, dialect, linguistics, japanese pop culture, translation, race, identity
Twerking entered mainstream slang through spectacles like Big Freedia’s Guinness World Record (for the most people twerking) and Miley Cyrus’s co-opting of bounce during many controversial appearances this year. This perhaps becomes even more relevant and resonant after TwERK‘s publication — as it addresses the co-opting of culture and race in its opening poem “mista popo ™ hollas @ jynx™.” If you’re not in the know about ’90s anime, Mister Popo is a character from Dragon Ball Z, who was drawn in the style of blackface. Jynx, a Pokémon, was depicted in the same style of pitch skin and big red lips — until they later revised her skin to slightly-less-racist-but-no-really-this-is-still-racist-as-hell purple. TwERK examines Western culture through iconographic appropriation, fierce language, composite languages, and experiments of dialect and form. While I note the pop culture that makes this work an exciting access point, the juggling of linguistics is not to be overlooked — this book rivals Christian Bök’s Vowels or Cathy Park Hong’s Dance Dance Revolution in terms of its creative wordplay.