Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Review: Dear Sister

Lisa Factora-Borchers has given the world a great gift in this collection, entitled Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence

The book is divided into six sections, excluding the foreword and introduction: What Every Survivor Needs to Know, A Child Re-members, Family Ties, From Trauma to Strength, Radical Companionship, and Choose Your Own Adventure. Factora-Borchers begins the anthology with this statement:

"True spaces of justice are the spaces where vulnerability is a sign of strength, where choice is honored, and listening is a transformative tool for activism."

Such a declaration sets the stage for the rest of the book, where pain is explored, lines are drawn, but most of all, love is given so very freely. Nearly every essay implores the reader to hang on, to put one foot in front of the other and to know there are survivors (or the identifier they choose) out there who love them.

In Letter #18, the author closes with this short paragraph:

"Surviving is the process of finding new connections each day. An hourly reckoning. It's the ability to trust even though it seems impossible to look anyone in the eyes again. Sometimes we stumble toward each other and find a community whose energy will keep us alive."

In the last section, one of my favorite essays is one between the editor and Sofia Rose Smith, called "The Place of Forgiveness: A Conversation." They state that not everyone is at a place to even discuss forgiveness, but the piece goes beyond that, to discuss ways beyond seeking justice for the harm done. They want accountability and acknowledgement, a "kind of communal grieving...of our losses would have been (and are) so healing."

Another very important quote talks about the realization that "forgiveness isn't binary." It's complicated, which does not fit into "Western culture...obsessed with straight and clear processes-boxes of milestones we check off to prove we are 'normal'...I cannot honor my own complexity that ask me to exist only in the binaries. What kind of system is that? Not one that creates the possibility of healing justice."

Healing and justice and forgiveness are going to look radically different to each person who undertakes and incorporates these actions into their own lives. The conversations that need to happen, to advance both these systems, along with reshaping the communities, start with books like this one.

To say that this book is important would be a gross understatement. As a reader, it took me many weeks to finish this book, which is not a reflection upon the quality or writing style. There is much to digest and among the beautifully written pieces, are heartache and words that are painful to read. The essays are raw, but authentic. It was remarkable to hold such an honest book in my hands.

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