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Stories that Save Lives

Leslie Marmon Silko in "The Storyteller's Escape" (STORYTELLER, Seaver Books, 1981) wrote, "The storyteller keeps the stories / all the escape stories / she says 'With these stories of ours / we can escape almost anything / with these stories we will survive.' "

As a writer I often wonder if my writing gets better as my life gets better or if my life gets better as my writing gets better. I do know that I have been writing about identity for almost thirty years and the writing and the life depend on each other.

Gloria Anzaldua wrote in THIS BRIDGE CALLED MY BACK, "I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you."

I started writing about identity when I went to a feminist bookstore and realized there were no books about me, a mixed race woman, Black and Chinese. I wrote poem after poem which eventually became a chapbook, A LITTLE MIXED UP, published by Guild Press in the early 80s.

I write because I have to. If I didn't write the silence would be unbearable. There would be no place for the anger, the pain, the loneliness to disappear. If I didn't write love wouldn't be possible.

Love is the essence of the mapping of who I am. My curriculum vitae is a map of my journey towards a holistic life. each line on my cv a blessing and a hope. I have other maps. My chapbook, A LITTLE MIXED UP; my memoir in verse, CHINESE BLACKBIRD published by Asian American Renaissance in 2002; and my almost completed manuscript, HOW TO WRITE A SUICIDE NOTE: serial essays that saved a woman's life. Each map embraces all of who I am integrating race, class, gender, age, etc. into my stories.

Eden says in BLACK GIRL IN PARIS by Shay Youngblood, "...and between my tears words began to bloom on the page, one after the other. Words crowded each other, trying to lead me out of despair. I was exhuberant. The maps I'd made were guides to my interior. I remembered all the places I'd been, all the things I'd seen, and I caught them in my imagination. Jimmy was with me and Langston too. I wrote to understand where I had been, where I was going, to make sense of the world that had led me to the small room on the edge of the abyss."

Writing by colorful women writers has kept me alive, along with my own writing. Writers like Audrey Lorde, Joy Harjo, Evelina Galang, Toi Derricotte, Nikki Giovanni, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Wang Ping, Linda Hogan, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Eden Torres, bell hooks, Maxine Hong Kingston, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Ana Castillo, etc., etc. etc. have given me the courage to discover who I am as I continue to map my life through writing.


we stage on this soil
dissected but one.
our eyes slanted
yearning for home.
as we whisper in nightfall
the saga of our ancestors
the future of our scion...
we have come to sustain
and to revere one another.


i write because my colonized voice cannot express in my mother's tongue...
but i also write because my third-world accent is implicit to the others.
i write to cleanse the junk out of my system...
but sometimes i also write to make meanings out of those junk
i write because of other writers who have written for me and affirmed my being...
i write in honor of those writers and for others who have yet to write
i write: to heal... to persist... to empower... to demand... to manifest...
but sometimes i write merely of its necessity.

-robina rai.

Writing has been my secret survival. The urge to write, to read, to seek out and be part of the company of souls whose words are spiritual clairvoyance. I write because there is often no one around to hear or listen nor the time to stop and hear and listen to the barrage of poetry, essay, dissertation or plain ol' vetchin' that screams inside me, sings inside me, whispers and screams ... inside ... me...'

My poems are seeded in bits and pieces of everyday sheets of reality ... a note of sadness scribbled around the margins of an ATM envelope...a desperate cry to my love to hang on for dear life, letters dancing around airplane instructions on how to extract one's flotation device in case of an emergency...a letter of admiration to a spoken word artist whose lilts lifted me up - written on the edges of a discarded copy of a community garage sale announcement.

I guess I am not a writer of books
My books are published in the pages of everyday life.

Someday, I may write a book. But it won't be the same. And it would be for survival of a different sort.

--- Marlina

I like the title, "Writing that Saves Lives" very appealing and attractive. Writing is my meditation which unfortunately is few and far in between lately.

I don't know anything about blogs but I like the invitation to submit. I probably won't have anything new for public consumption. I'm writing stories for my children and their children about family history and characters. Just so they won't feel cut off from a deeply rooted tree.

I write for me. To survive the crap that goes on around me. I write for no one but myself. I may not share, but I keep writing because I am a brown skin woman in a world that doesn't like brown skin women, really. I write because if I don't I will explode with all the anger and hate that has been thrown on me. I write because I see beauty in myself regardless if others see it in me. I write and I write and I write...stories that saved my life, The Color Purple, The Street, The Plum Plum Pickers, Linden Hills, Bailey's Cafe, Becoming Madame Mao, Woman Warrior, White teeth and Cane River...

Sherry --

I'm so proud of you for teaching yourself how to do a blog. And I love the work you posted. And I think this will be a great resource for people like me, so I also want to thank you for doing it.