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March 22, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Alice Driver

Kate Hart
Alice Driver making a film in Juarez - photo credit Julián Cardona
In January, I got to interview sommelier Rachel Speckan, an old friend from high school. Her family must have some killer genes, because this month I have the honor of profiling her cousin, Dr. Alice Driver, a photojournalist whose work I've admired for a long time. Alice uses her prodigious talents to benefit marginalized populations, fight for intersectional feminism, and shine a light on injustice at a time when doing so is becoming more dangerous by the day.


The cover of More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico (University of Arizona 2015) by Alice Driver
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Alice: I have two fellowships to support my current writing and photography projects on Central American migrants traveling through Mexico, a Restorative Narrative Fellowship from Images of Voices and Hope and a Foreign Policy Interrupted Fellowship. At a time when the United States has embraced particularly hateful, vitriolic rhetoric against immigrants with a focus on Mexico, I feel that it is essential for me to use my photography and bilingual writing skills to tell narratives that highlight the strength, resilience and humanity of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. My project will take me to migrant shelters in Juarez, Oaxaca, and Tapachula, Mexico where I will focus on telling the stories of women and transgender migrants.

Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)? 

Alice: At any given time, I am juggling several creative projects. If anything, the difficulty for me is that I want to turn everything in my life into a project. I am working on a co-authored book about the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi with Civil Rights leader Mary King, and I recently translated a book by Mexican journalist Julián Cardona into English. I would like to make another short documentary if I can raise the funds.

black and white portrait of Alice Driver by Sung Park
Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Alice: The biggest challenge is balancing my creative life and making money.

Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Alice: I fail all the time – freelance writing is 99% rejection. For every fellowship I’ve gotten, I’ve been rejected from 30. Learning not to take rejection personally has been a difficult but important lesson. And keep doing the work, because the work is what matters.

Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? 

Alice: Poet Nikky Finney, who was my professor in college in 2001, wrote me in 2015, "So much of the world needs the muscle found in true words. Please keep sending what your head and belly make as one loaf."

"Muerte el macho" street art in Mexico City - photo by Alice Driver
Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Alice: I was raised a feminist. My mom has always been outspoken about social justice issues, and she is funny and a real force to reckon with. The injustice of daily life moves me to continue my feminist work, because I see how women I know, including myself, are marginalized and discredited, as well as paid less than their male colleagues.

Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Alice: I believe that rising tide lift all boats, and I try to support other women by celebrating their work and their lives. In practical terms, I interview women, recommend them as experts, share their work, and try to increase the participation and visibility of women in my field.

KateLightning round -- tell us what you’re…    

reading: I’m reading The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan and The Heart of the Artichoke by Elena Poniatowska (who, coincidentally, I met in Mexico City recently)
watching: Samantha Bee
listening to: Julie Byrne
eating:  Gorditas, tacos, mamey milkshakes
wearing: Superman converse (Wonder Woman was sold out)
wishing for: equality
wanting: to collaborate on more projects with photographers and videographers who I admire
loving: Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer

Alice Driver fly fishing on assignment - Mulberry River, Oark, Arkansas
Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why? 

Alice: Roxane Gay is one of my favorite writers, both for how genuine she is and how open and funny.

Elizabeth Plank is a media goddess – brilliant, funny and she does a lot of good work supporting disability rights.

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Alice: Do the work and be persistent. Don’t overthink.


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Dr. Alice Driver is a bilingual photojournalist based in Mexico City. Driver received a 2017 Images and Voices of Hope Restorative Narrative Fellowship to support her work on a project about women and transgender migrants in Mexico, and she is also a 2017 Foreign Policy Interrupted Fellow.

She is the author of More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico (University of Arizona 2015), a book which she completed as part of her postdoctoral fellowship at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City.

Driver's writing and documentary photography have been featured in The New York Times, Oxford American, National Geographic, The World Policy Journal, The Guardian, The Texas Observer, Al Jazeera English, Pacific Standard, and Ms. Magazine. She has interviewed and/or worked with foreign policy analyst Anne-Marie Slaughter, actress Lena Dunham, chef Andrew Zimmern, novelist NoViolet Bulawayo, and Emmy-winning writer Moira Walley-Beckett. She has a forthcoming book chapter on Mexico with Oxford University Press.

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