Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

20 June 2014

Book Review: Dear Sister: Letters From Survivors of Sexual Violence by Lisa Factora-Borchers (ed)

The feminist community has been in a battle over the use of trigger warnings on posts, books, movies, and even women's studies syllabi. But don't worry about that here because the title of today's book is TW enough: Dear Sister: Letters From Survivors of Sexual Violence edited by Lisa Factora-Borchers.

I don't have a big sister, but I read through the essays as if they came from her. The essays in this anthology are about sexual violence, but there is a gentleness and love to them. I did not read every essay. This is definitely the type of anthology that you read an essay, stop, cry, and return to a few days or weeks later. Or maybe you have been waiting to hear these words for so long you binge on them all in one sitting.

Lisa introduces the anthology by not only setting the stage, but also being transparent about how the anthology came to be. In a moment of brave honesty, she addresses the title’s use of “sister.” It can be a loaded word for many as it implies an idyllic sisterhood that allows for safe space that quite frankly not every woman has experienced. Lisa did think that the use of “sister” would create a bond, but after discussions with others and a lot of thinking, realized that it was not the sisterhood that would bind readers, but the shared experience of violence in our lives, including the burden of our shared trauma.

I would like to thank anonymous for “Letter 2.” I am not one for self-affirmations, but this one is contextually perfect. I did not realize how much I needed to read this letter until I was half way through and in tears.

The essays within are not just letters to a sister, but also contain a hard look at violence in our world. In the interview with Zoe Flowers, she points out that while we talk of sexual violence as intimate violence or domestic violence and make it a personal issue, it is actually rooted in historical contexts. We need to remember that persons of color and women have only recently become free. As she says, we have been free far shorter than we have been enslaved and controlled. I wholeheartedly agree that in order to move forward we must know our history.

What may be the most controversial essay in this collection is based on an essay that originally ran at XOJane. In it the author profoundly believes that survivors do not owe anyone to report an attack. We occasionally will read about a rape survivor who will be lauded for her courage to come forward, report and press for charges. All that a survivor owes to anyone is to heal. And for many survivors not reporting is one method. We must honor that.

We must also honor the courage it will take many survivors to read this book as Mary Zelinka takes the time to note. And we should. Yes, if you are a survivor this book will be tough to read. But I do hope you find solace inside the covers. Perhaps find that story that makes you feel less alone. Because that is why we tell our stories, not to share our life, but to connect with others.

And if you feel like you want or need to tell your story, "Dear Sister" wants to hear from you. 

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing your book through Powells or Indiebound.

I received a review copy of this book through the publisher. 

2 comments:

I just love your book reviews, Veronica. Thank you for keeping me in the loop about new stuff I need to read!