On Naming a Sisterhood of Writers After a Fruit Mistaken for a Vegetable and Derived from the Aztec Word for “Testicle”
“Avocados are my favorite fruit,” says Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar , poet Sylvia Plath’s loosely autobiographical novel. On my 35th birthday, when a man I fell hard for “sliced up the ready flesh / and fed me curved fingers / of sun” (I had to write the poem!), they became my favorite fruit, too.
This synchronicity humbles me to life’s mystery: (1) Sylvia Plath’s book Ariel was my first encounter with mature poetry (in 7 th grade, I stumbled across it in the school library) and with what I sensed to be, but couldn’t yet articulate as, the presence of absence , and (2) my identity as a poet crystallized the year I wrote poem after poem about unrequited love for the man who hand-fed me an avocado.
Still, I chose the name “The Avocado Sisterhood” simply because avocado is my favorite word: I love how the vowels hum from the larynx, how the consonants play against the teeth, lips, and tongue.
I savor the avocado that fills my hand when I test its ripeness. I love its womanly shape, its pebbly skin, its soft, womb-like center. That the Aztecs saw something else—the word avocado comes from ahuacatl , their term for testicle—isn’t necessarily inharmonious: the flowers of the avocado tree have both female and male characteristics, so the tree is essentially self-pollinating, though has evolved to reliably fruit through cross-pollination.
The Avocado Sisterhood was born for any woman’s and girl’s creative self-pollination via language—and her cross-pollination with the global female family of writers. May you always feel at home here.
P.S. For my personal and professional backstory, see www.MarjHahne.com.