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Writers Who Have Saved My Life

Writers Who Have Saved My Life

There are many women of color writers who have saved my life. Their stories familiar--the anger, the pain, the confusion, the loneliness, the abuse, the struggle, the triumph, the beauty, the passion, the creativity, the love.

Nikki Giovanni wrote: >

“and if ever i touched a life i hope that life knows / that i know that touching was and still is and will always / be the true / revolution� (excerpt from poem, “When I Die�)

Women of color are changing the/ir world by writing and sharing their stories.

Alice Walker asks:

“What can I give you to help you stay strong when you feel the world is turned against you and that you are standing, perhaps even naked, absolutely alone? I give you this poem:� (“Be Nobody’s Darling,� ANYTHING WE LOVE CAN BE SAVED, Ballantine, 1998, page 92).

Have you ever written a poem, or a story, or a letter for a loved one? Marian Wright Edelman wrote MEASURE OF SUCCESS A LETTER TO MY CHILDREN AND YOURS. What other writers have written books that are collections of letters? Who do you want to/need to write letter(s) to?

Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote:

“Creativity is not a solitary movement. That is its power. Whatever is touched by it, whoever hears it, sees it, senses it, knows it, is fed. That is why beholding someone else’s creative word, image, idea, fills us up, inspires us to our own creative work. A single creative act has the potential to feed a continent. One creative act can cause a torrent to break through stone.� (WOMEN WHO RUN WITH WOLVES, Ballantine Books, 1992, page 299)

When was the last time/any time that someone’s story made a difference to your life? Was it a book you read, a poetry reading you went to, a letter from a friend, a story in a magazine, a greeting card from your child or a grandchild, a note from a student/or a teacher? A song? Make a list of “creative acts� that have helped get you through tough times.

Whose lives have you touched? What story or poem made a difference to someone you know, or to a stranger? What story or poem haven’t you written that someone is waiting to hear? Write it.

I will never forget the angel I met at a Split Rock writing workshop. After introductions and at the end of the class she came up to me and asked if I was the Sherry Quan Lee that had read at the Loft some seven or eight years before. She went on to recite some lines from my poems! We might never know when we have touched someone’s life with our words, but our words can be transformative!

I keep some of the letters and notes from people whose lives I have touched. It is not narcissistic. It’s what I return to when I wonder what my purpose in life is, when I wonder if my life matters, when I’m feeling low down. The kind words others have written to me save my life time and time again. One of the most meaningful letters I received was from a second cousin. My first chap book, A LITTLE MIXED UP, was published in 1982 by Guild Press. It was all about family secrets; it was a scary endeavor. My second cousin thanked me for allowing her to know her grandmother through my poetry. My mother, however, wasn’t pleased. Yet, sometime before she died, she was able to say “we are proud of you.�

It’s all about love, really. Loving ourselves, and loving others. However, Clarissa Pinkola Estés tells us:

“…love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many many endings, and many many beginnings—all in the same relationship.� (WOMEN WHO RUN WITH WOLVES, Ballantine Books, 1992, page 162)


I have been loved, and loved and know that is true because I have gained much understanding by what other women of color have written, and what I continue to write.

Sherry Quan Lee