Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Just One Picture?

This piece is about the subtlety with which harassment occurs at work. It comes in many forms and sometimes sweeps past us so swiftly that we hardly know how to respond in the moment, how to defend ourselves, or how to defend each other. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Coats

When my mother was young, she was rich / So rich that her father bought her a coat / Straight from a well known department store / At ten after closing time by knocking on the window / And shaking a hand full of money at the manager. / It was a prepossessing coat. / Georgia clay red with a furry collar. / When my mother got a little older, her family was poor / And her mother and her had to share a coat. One had to wait for / the / other to come in, order to go out.It was a hideous coat. / […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

What It Means to Be a Woman

To get to your apartment junior year of college, you have to walk a winding path by your old freshman dorm, three newer apartments, and the community center before you arrive at home. Sometimes instead, you take a shorter path through the woods, like when it was below 40 degrees or you were running late to whatever class or club you’d committed to. On this particular night, you wrap your jacket tightly around yourself and opt for the shorter, if poorly lit, path. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

How to Be Alone with a God

I know now that when you turn a man into a god, he does not die. He is inevitable; he is Poseidon with a beard; Hades on a chariot; Pan stealing the survival of the moon. My god sits constantly at my feet, on my shoulder, behind my eyes. Gods, of course, exist for us, silent and taunting, slowly conforming themselves into conjugal intervention until they know our bodies through entrance and scrutiny of entrance. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Speak

My story describes a horrifying threat of violence I experienced at the age of nineteen, many decades ago. I recount the seemingly safe context in which it occurred, how I responded to the threat as it was unfolding and how profoundly the experience impacted on my character development. An important dimension of the story is how my need to be popular and offend no-one at the time led me to ignore my sense of impending danger. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

The (Questionable) Safety of Home

The summer after her junior year of college, the author lived alone in a house of five, or she thought she did. This essay tells the story of discovering that somebody who did not belong in her house was there without her knowledge, and the lasting effect it has had on her sense of safety in her home. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

My Dead Darlings

“My Dead Darlings” is a creative nonfiction essay that focuses on the author’s personal connection to Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Lisbon sisters from Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. The characters are used as conduit through which to explore the experiences of teenage girls. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

My Mind, My Choice

This piece is about the author’s ongoing struggle with her decision to not press charges against her rapists. It also includes struggles she had with how her family and friends reacted to her victimhood and coping mechanisms. The author makes a subtle defense for her decision to cope. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Up for Grabs

The author recalls: “An older male friend told me once that if a woman was over 18, “she was up for grabs”.  I thought he was just being facetious: most men have a sense of decorum. An eye-opening incident, may have proved my friend’s point.” […]

Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series

Episode 39 – Kwatsáan: Ancestral Land, Myths, & Reparations

Deborah Taffa, a citizen of the Quechan (Yuma Indian) Nation, shares two personal essays. In Act 1, she tells the story of a Native woman who leaves her ancestral land and lands in Missouri, where a disappearing lake and the confusion of a binational marriage force her to examine the relationship between motherhood and community. In Act 2, she speaks of a daughter’s familial connections to the land. As she leaves her mother’s hospital bed, Taffa reflects on healing and prayer, her tribal myths, and the injustice of tourism in her homeland. […]

Being Latina/e/o/x Series

Episode 36: The Sisterhood of Teatro Luna, Part 1

Teatro Luna is an ensemble of Latina/x femmes and Women of Color creating empowering theatre, media, and training for social impact. On the 18th of June, 2020, Julián Esteban Torres López spoke with three of these radical culture makers and got a glimpse into Teatro Luna’s history, evolution, values, and sisterhood: Christina Igaraividez, Alexandra Meda, and Liza Ann Acosta. Here’s the conversation. […]

Interviews

Episode 35: Isolation, Grief, and Sisterhood While Incarcerated, Part 2

Ra Avis joins Julián Esteban Torres López again, this time to discuss how people do not rehabilitate via isolation alone, her experience dealing with grief and trauma while incarcerated, and the shocking aspect of realizing that one of the only women-run societies in the world is a women’s prison, which was one aspect of incarceration that she found herself missing after she was out. […]

Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series

Episode 28: Interrogating the Publishing Industry’s White Gaze

Lisa D. Gray, founder of Our Voices Our Stories SF, joins Julián Esteban Torres López to interrogate the white gaze of the publishing industry. They challenge its myths about Black and brown communities; call out its performative allyship; expose its diversity, equity, and inclusion problem; and hold it accountable. They also center, elevate, and amplify Black and other People of Color writers, especially women. […]

Deconstructing Dominant Cultures Series

Black Books Matter

As we find ways to impact diversity and equity in publishing and writing and disrupt its “old boy” culture, one critical thing we can all do is buy and read books written by Black and other people of color. This list provides a starting point. It’s for readers searching for themselves on the page and ones who never encountered or meaningfully engaged with someone who doesn’t look like them or share their ethnic/cultural norms and values. These tomes, written by women of color, are ones that you need to read like yesterday. These books and the women who wrote them dare to push for space and give voice to the lives of Black and brown women on the page. Buy one today. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Stalker, Stalker, Rapist: A (Sub)Version of Duck, Duck, Goose for Feminists

In a child’s game, roles and blame flip with little more than the pointing of a finger. Terminology emerges for experiences that couldn’t be acknowledged without words to label them; new legislation and culture changes follow. #MeToo. But even the most positive changes can be weaponized against those they were meant to protect. Beware the smiling woman. […]

Being LGBTQIAA+ Series

All My Safe Spaces Are Dead

“All My Safe Spaces Are Dead” is a look at the upheaval and restructuring of my sense of self. My sense of safety is a horizon I never seem to reach; a mirage that morphs into something new once I tear my gaze away from its lies. Yet I wake up every morning looking for it, craving it, being unable to live without it. This is my hunt for a place to call home. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Four Poems

While love seems to be the most common quality of a happy life, our first exposure to love starts in the home. These poems exemplify the influence parent-child relationships have on one’s experience of self-love and even romantic love. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Tell Me If This Hurts

“Tell Me If This Hurts” portrays the gruesome aftermath of a sexual assault. From being insulted by the police, re-living trauma during the rape kit, to finding out the offender was on the force: this story depicts the challenges and pains of being a rape survivor. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

All Woman

“All Woman” chronicles the impact of sexual harassment in adolescence through adulthood, and the altered perspective of the world it cultivates. The harassment, however, is portrayed as a reclaimed point of connection, however unfortunate, from which women can bond, heal, and become stronger from sharing experiences and supporting one another. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

fleas. & their five life stages.

This piece clings to the life cycle of a flea to process a sexual assault. In comparing the five stages of a flea’s life to the events that occurred, this author attempts to find closure while addressing her nameless yet personally known perpetrator directly. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Planting Seeds

Two decades after a newlywed suggests divorce, she writes a letter to her ex-husband, both an apology and an explanation for what she couldn’t understand at the time. Their son is now the age she was on that fateful night, in a sweltering bedroom in her mother’s apartment, waiting for her husband to come home. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Remember to Forget: A Coping Mechanism

During a poetry open mic, Angelia Saplan explores the relentlessness of trauma and the elusiveness of the act of remembering. As she revisits her childhood sexual assault at the hands of a family member, she confronts its harrowing repercussions on her relationship with her mother — and herself. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Into Eros

Drawing on her experience of intimate partner abuse at 15, Zoë Brigley considers the possibility of sex after rape. Anne Carson’s assertion that Eros is “the biggest risk of your life” takes on a new meaning within legacies of trauma, and on a quest to rediscover desire and healing. […]

Being Latina/e/o/x Series

Episode 23: Traces of Home

Filmmaker Colette Ghunim on her first feature-length documentary: “Traces of Home tells the story of what happens when we as first-generation Americans go back to our roots to find out how where we come from shapes our identity. Through Traces of Home, I am telling my own personal story. I’m half Mexican and half Palestinian and both my parents were forced to leave their homes as children, and they both never returned since then. So through my film, we’re going back to Mexico and Palestine to try to find the original houses and to talk about why people are leaving and immigrating and why refugees are leaving as well, during a time when we need to hear it the most.” […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

The Shulamite Woman

“The Shulamite Woman” places the author’s personal experience growing up as a woman in a fundamentalist evangelical non-denominal Protestant church that enforced purity culture, and the lasting psychological and emotional trauma it caused, in juxtaposition with an alternative reading of the biblical book Song of Solomon. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

Barbs on a Wire

The first time we three are together and Dad says, “Hey, Hon”, both our heads turn to him expectantly. Of course, he means her. I blush, embarrassed by the demotion. Confronting and exposing childhood sexual abuse—like walking a barbed wire. […]

Womanhood & Trauma Series — "Give Us a Smile"

800,000 Clenched Cervixes

Childbirth is often heralded as one of the most amazing and profound experiences a woman can have. But what happens when the birthing mother has been sexually abused? Lan Tran shares her experiences, shadowed by trauma, of birthing naturally and via C-section. […]