A short reflection by Shira Devorah, Women’s Center student staff.
I bought my own copy of Dirty River (even though the Women’s Center has a copy you can loan now thanks to the UMBC’s LGBTQ Faculty & Staff Association recent donation), and I’m really glad that I did. I got to underline the poetry and the words that really resonated with me. I carefully applied sticky notes to the parts I loved, the difficult areas I wanted to come back to, the short mix of music I have to check out.
Dirty River, A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, is a memoir, but it is also so much more. It is a story of escape, of survival, of scraping by and fighting to exist. This book is more poetry than prose. It is incredibly difficult, dealing with (trigger warning!) incest, abuse and intimate partner violence. It is also difficult because there is so so much. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha feels everything so much. She discovers herself and pulls you in through all the twists and turns.
This book explores her complicated and celebrated identity as a queer disabled femme Sri Lankan woman of color. Each facet of herself is carefully explored, every insecurity, every moment of triumph bursts onto the page. She will not apologize for existing, for running away, for her commitment to activism and celebrating the voices and authorship of queer people of color. She introduces us to the many complex people who hurt her, abused her, raped her and to the people who cared for her and called her family, who stuck in her life. She withers away on one page and blossoms on the next.
Her narrative is fluid, skipping from one point in time to the next. Each chapter is something a little different, a new window to peek through. You have to work through this book – you have to earn Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s story. This book is daunting and incredibly rewarding. I ask you to stick with it, because reading this book makes you feel full inside. It took me longer to read Dirty River than I had anticipated. Though there are only 232 pages, they are filled to the brim with poetry and difficulties and survival. It is overwhelming, and it is beautiful.
Need more Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in your life? Good news, she has a bunch of poetry books and spoken word on Youtube! Even better news? She’s slated to be the keynote speaker for the 4th annual Critical Social Justice: Home coming to UMBC this October!
This is an amazing interview she did last year on the Laura Flanders Show
Pick up our new copy of Dirty River, A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home at the Women’s Center’s lending library. And, save the date for October 25th to see her in person at UMBC at Critical Social Justice 2016!
This short blurb is part of our Summer Reading Challenge. Check it out and happy reading!