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.