For my second assignement in my college writing class last spring I had to choose to write a paper on the use of words as catharsis (healing) or the use of words as resistance. I chose resistance and began researching to highlight the work of women who used their words to fight oppression- in fact the title of my paper was “Women Writers Resisting Oppression.”
What I tried to do was connect the writings of women across various racial and ethnic backgrounds. The common thread was their ability to use words to fight back against the oppression of their circumstances, particularly as women within their cultures.
Maracle’s use of words rips right through the heart in a profound way that brings transformation. Born in Canada in 1950, Lee was part of the Sto:lo aboriginal people, and began writing and speaking on behalf of her people with an emphasis on women’s rights in the 1970’s. Her nonfiction book “I am Woman” was first published in 1988. She has written both fiction and nonfiction- for a list of her current books available please click here:
Although the focus of Maracle’s stories is primarily for and about her native people, her strong voice speaks to women of all backgrounds. Her words effectively fight back oppression internally and externally.
The title of the first chapter in her book “I Am Woman” drew me in immediately, titled, “I Want to Write.” A couple of excerpts from that chapter:
“In the early years of my political activism the passion (for her people and their stories) expressed itself as a virulent hatred for the system which destroyed our lives, our families; today the passion expresses itself as deep caring.”
“From around the kitchen tables of the people I have known have come stories of the heart. Great trust and love were required to enable the bearer to part with the tale. If I wrote for a lifetime I could never re-tell all the stories that people have given me. I am not sure what to do with that, except that I shall try to grasp the essence of our lives and to help weave a new story. A story in which pain is not a way of life.”
I love this poem! Isn’t this what we all hope for ourselves and for our children?
Poetry of a Girl-Child
by Lee Maracle
Bright red sunrise
with graceful wings
amid fluffy clouds
Let my life be filled with joy
and only punctuated with pain.
I was excited to find this video of Lee Maracle speaking about the relationship between violence to the earth and our violence towards each other, particularly women. She shares some incredible insights during her talk, so if you have the time I recommend checking it out. On Thursday I will share more of her inspiring work, as well as hope to provoke some discussion with a couple of interesting questions.