Michael Escoubas of Quill and Parchment Reviews We Will Not Be Silenced

Editors: Christine E. Ray, Kindra M. Austin, Candace Louise Daquin,
Rachel Finch
163 poems, essays and art, 326 pages
Price: $12.99 Print Format, $4.99 Kindle Version
Publisher: Indie Blu(e) Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-7328000-0-7
Library of Congress Control Number: 2018913952
To Order: indieblucollective@gmail.com
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

The tone is set by Susan Conway’s essay, Bearer of the Sky. She chronicles the terror and long-term trauma of a girl abused by her father beginning at a young age. It is impossible for this reviewer to hold back tears. I use present tense to indicate my reaction as I return again and again to her words. Conway’s essay should be prefaced with, “What you are about to read may be disturbing.” The most telling line among many, “My body is MY BODY, you don’t get to hurt me anymore.” Indeed, this entire collection of poetry, prose and art is specifically designed to be disturbing, and rightfully so.

IMAGES

Poet William Wordsworth has written, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” The remarkable writings contained in We Will Not Be Silenced are the work of skilled poets who have taken the time to feel and think about their pain. As they take pen and journal in hand they write from the overflow of reflective thought translated into some of the most powerful poetry this reviewer has ever encountered. Throughout the work compelling images and other poetic devices drew me in, kept me interested and brought forth the tears alluded to above. As you become absorbed in the pathos of these poems (and you will), look for a “little nest of sparrows,” in Rachel Finch’s The Innocence is Haunting; “little white go-go boots,” in S.L. Heaton’s poem by the same title; “an old sack of bones,” in Secrets, by Hanlie Robbertse. Keep turning the pages until you find the horror of a Back Alley, by Cynthia Bryant and “girls huddled close together like a rack of pool balls,” in Home Safe, by Lesléa Newman. I return to Conway’s “This is MY BODY, you don’t get to hurt me anymore.” So often within these poems, the victim is alone, without resources, with no one she can trust with the telling of her experience.

ARTWORK

We Will Not Be Silenced is punctuated throughout with poems superimposed over pictures which speak every bit as loudly as the poems which accompany them. In Heaton’s The Morning After, a pretty girl is leaning against the window sill seated at her classroom desk. Terrible things had happened to her the night before, things that were not her fault. Even so, she is dealing with “judgmental eyes that watched a slut ride the bus to school the morning after.” This work of art moved me as did the picture of a little girl, not more than four or five, holding her freckled face with both hands in Jamie Lynn Martin’s Little Girls, “she does not want to be the object of your lust.” The volume, as a whole, is laced with the power of words in tandem with equally powerful works of art.

TITLES

Titles in We Will Not Be Silenced stir adrenalin compelling readers to WANT to read every poem. Here is a sampling: The Innocence is Haunting, Not a Comma, Don’t Say a Word, Safety at Age Eleven, Thirteen, When I Say I’m Ticklish I mean I Am Scared of Men, My Body Remembers, Old Man Hands, The Quilt, I hear a Robin Sing, The Pros and Cons of Being this Heavily Medicated. As I read through the entire anthology I noticed strong unifying themes: the victims share ongoing trauma, self-doubt, in many cases self-loathing and isolation. I’ve selected the poem below as representative. It needs no commentary.

When I Told
Cynthia L Bryant

When I told my mother
she said
“Do you feel guilty?”

When I told my aunt
she said
“I’m not surprised.”

When she told her husband
he said
“I wish you hadn’t told me.”

When I told my uncle
he said
“Gee that’s too bad, but that was a long time ago.”

When he told his wife
she said
“Too bad something wasn’t said while he was living,
so he could have defended himself.”

When I told my cousin
she said
“There was a rumor of it in our mothers’ family.”

When I told my husband
my father had sexually abused me throughout my childhood
He held me while I cried.

After reading this poem, your reviewer cried too.

Having grown up free of abuse and the toxic environment that envelops the courageous victims who step up and speak out in this incredibly well done anthology, I am visited by a fresh loathing for those who abuse power and change forever girls and women too vulnerable to fend for themselves. At the same time, I am encouraged by those who walk in light and hope within the community of the redeemed who declare, We Will Not Be Silenced.  

I return to where I began with Susan Conway’s tone-setting essay,

“I have faith, that one day you will emerge into the clearing that is the knowledge that although your abusers tasked you with the charge of holding up the sky, the entire Universe now revolves around you. Blessed Survivors, may you lean into the healing hard, may you step into the magnificence that you are. Bearer of stars, and moons, and mystery; sacred, sacred, sacred you are.”

There Are Still 24 Hours Left To Enter The We Will Not Be Silenced Big Book Giveaway!

In honor of the launch of We Will Not Be Silenced, we are holding an amazing Big Book Giveaway! Two lucky winners in the U.S. or Canada will receive an assortment of six books each, including a copy of We Will Not Be Silenced. A lucky International winner will receive four books, including We Will Not Be Silenced.

Entering is simple! Just sign up for Indie Blu(e) Publishing’s Newsletter at http://eepurl.com/dsiqyX. There is no cost to enter. Winners will be selected at random on December 15, 2018.

Big Book Giveaway

In honor of the launch of We Will Not Be Silenced, we are holding an amazing Big Book Giveaway! Two lucky winners in the U.S. or Canada will receive an assortment of six books each, including a copy of We Will Not Be Silenced. A lucky International winner will receive four books, including We Will Not Be Silenced.

Entering is simple! Just sign up for Indie Blu(e) Publishing’s Newsletter here. There is no cost to enter. Winners will be selected at random Winners will be selected at random on December 15, 2018.

Kristiana Reed Reviews We Will Not Be Silenced

We Will Not Be Silenced is a collection of poetry, prose, essays, and art which shares the lived experience of sexual harassment and sexual assault. It has been pieced together and pioneered by four incredible, courageous women who, in telling their truth, have a raised a chorus of ninety-one other writers and artists. Austin, Daquin, Finch, and Ray have undoubtedly created more than a piece of art. They have blown wind into the sails of change and made a stand which has already altered the lives of many.

We Will Not be Silenced, as the title suggests, paves the way for silence to be shattered. Shame and stigma in society have taught a lesson of ‘stay quiet because no one will believe you’, for too long. The stories in this collection, although difficult to read at times, teach new lessons. Lessons about hope.Lessons about how you are not alone. Lessons about letting your shame fly away in the breeze even if you can still taste blood in your mouth. Lessons about the strength you can find in your scars. Lessons about women and men; about how this can happen to anyone; about how this is not your fault, never was and never will be.

As a piece of art raised from an eclectic collective, the work ebbs and flows with the gentle power of the current downstream; each piece moving the reader in familiar and unfamiliar ways. The editing is thoughtful and allows every writer space to breathe as an individual and yet remain part of the whole; the heart and soul of We Will Not Be Silenced. In fact, I would love to share my favourite pieces but I would end up quoting the whole book.

With Austin, Daquin, Finch, and Ray at the helm, We Will Not Be Silenced is truly something special; a landmark demonstrating how far we have come and how far we are yet to go, with loud, unbroken voices.

Kristiana Reed daydreams, people watches in coffee shops, teaches English and writes. She is a curator on Blood into Ink, a collective member of The Whisper and the Roar and blogs at My Screaming Twenties. She is 24 and is enjoying the journey which is finding her voice.

Kristiana Reed Interviews Kindra M. Austin, Candice Louisa Daquin, Rachel Finch, and Christine E. Ray About the Anthology ‘We Will Not Be Silenced’

In the last few years, the stage on which women and men were always expected to prance and perform has changed. Windows are being installed in the wings. The heavy, velvet curtains are being pulled down and the ropes are being severed. The gauze on the lights is being torn or removed so they shine brighter and the ornamental ceiling has wide cracks in the stucco and tears in the paint. All that has been built around us for centuries – patriarchy, gender stereotypes, heterosexuality being the only sexuality, expectations of femininity, toxic masculinity and silence – is crumbling. It is crumbling because of people like the editors of We Will Not Be Silenced.

This anthology, which showcases powerful poetry, prose, essays and art, is the lived experience of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I was given the wonderful opportunity to interview the women who, in response to current events such as Christine Blasey Ford’s courageous stand against Brett Kavanaugh, decided to do more than just support those who share their stories. Christine Ray, Kindra Austin, Rachel Finch and Candice Daquin chose to create a monumental anthology which empowered an array of men and women from around the globe, to shatter the bonds of silence they were told they had to keep. It will no doubt propel the momentum we already feel with movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo and continue to shift power from the guilty many to the innocent many; who never asked for what happened to them.

I asked the editors four questions and below I have edited together their responses. I hope you enjoy reading about their own personal strength as well as their unconditional desire to help others.

We Will Not Be Silenced’ – What does this phrase mean to you?

Rachel: ‘It means Courage, Strength, the Reclaiming of Personal Power & Healing. It means we are not victims but survivors.’

Christine: ‘Breaking the silence and writing about my experiences became critical to my survival. The public backlash from the Kavanaugh hearings also reminded all of us how easy it can be to dismiss a single survivor.  We wanted to make a strong statement that we would not continue to maintain a silence that only benefits our abusers and the rape culture that surrounds us.’

Kindra: ‘We Will Not Be Silenced means we have found our voices, and we are going to use them—we will not wait to be asked.’

Candice: ‘By having a movement first with #metoo and now with We Will Not Be Silenced, this has felt like a reclamation or growth, the silence into a unified voice. That voice is saying no, you don’t have the power to silence me anymore. I am going to speak my truth.’

What do you envision or hope the legacy of this anthology will be?

Candice: ‘To be one way by which survivors and their loved ones, as well as anyone affected by sexual assault, can gain acceptance, healing, conversation, openness, through a pure art form.’

Rachel: ‘I hope the stigma concerning this type of abuse will change and that the anthology will help raise both awareness and understanding of how such an experience can affect a person. I hope that those that do know this pain are able to see that they are not alone in their experiences or feelings related to this and know that their voice matters and they need not be silenced as we were. I hope my daughters and sons read every page and see clearly that a person can carry strength even in their quiet but that we do not have to be.’

Kindra: ‘I hope that survivors of assault find strength, validation, and camaraderie within the pages. I would love to see We Will Not Be Silenced nationally recognized for what it is: a call to action.’

Christine: ‘We want to see the Anthology in public libraries, and rape crisis centers, and being read on public transportation.  We want to hear non-survivors say, “I didn’t understand until now.”  We want this to lessen the isolation of survivors who have not shared their story and help them realize that whatever they are feeling is normal and that we don’t have to stay victims.’

Why is the publication of this anthology important to you?

Christine: ‘The week of the Kavanaugh Hearings was incredibly triggering for me as a survivor.  There were times that I felt afraid and literally heartsick at what I read on social media, what I saw on the news.  But what I increasingly felt was outrage and anger.  I needed to do something creative and productive with those feelings.  I needed to connect with others who were feeling the same way and create something bigger than ourselves.’

Rachel: ‘When you have carried a story with no words inside of you for so many years, the telling of it becomes much more than just that. Many of these poems stir deep and painful emotions, at the same time, the collection is both empowering and liberating.’

Kindra: ‘We have to fight way too hard for respect, and compassion, and equality. Survivors of sexual assault live with a stigma projected upon us by the people who should be working toward justice, and making sure we have the support we need to get back to living and not just existing. This publication is important because we want victims to become survivors.’

Candice: ‘For the four of us, this was a necessary response to the climate politically in America and world-wide. Publication of these voices is a validation of their existence and their survival and I truly believe in the power of the printed word.’

You thanked people for trusting you with their pain, their stories and their survival. Can you share the moment when you realized how significant and powerful this project would be for you and many others?

 Christine: ‘We only opened submissions for a two-week period and received hundreds of pieces of writing and art in those two weeks.  We are still hearing from people who just learned about the project and wanted to submit.  It has been incredibly humbling and inspiring to hear from the contributors why it was important for them to participate.’

Candice: ‘This has slowly evolved into something far bigger than any of us could have expected, it speaks for all of us, it contains all of our momentum, frustrations and rage as well as our need for more than we presently have. I truly believe it’s taken on a life of its own and this is exactly what you would wish for as far as any collaborative project goes, although the fierce beauty and courage of these survivors never fails to take my breath away. I am so honored and humbled by the response it just makes me want to do more.’

Rachel: ‘Whilst reading through each piece I found myself with tears rolling down my cheeks for both myself and every survivor that had come forward with their truth and it was during the submission process that I realized this project was significant to many hundreds of people and that together the poetry creates both a powerful depiction of what it is to experience sexual violence and the importance of why we must untangle our vocal chords.’

Kindra: ‘All I know that is that all four of us are awestruck by the strength—the sheer will—and honesty of these beautiful contributors. I’ve collaborated on a lot of projects, but We Will Not Be Silenced is by far the most important and powerful to me.’ – Kindra Austin

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We Will Not Be Silenced was be released on November 27, 2018.  It is available in both print and Kindle editions.

The editors want to ensure free copies of this anthology make it into to the hands of the people and organisations who need it most. Visit their Go Fund Me page to learn more about how you can help this movement be one which saves lives and changes history.

-Kristiana Reed

Image courtesy of April Yvette