author – activist – faculty – mom
For anyone who hasn’t heard or seen it yet, Vice magazine did a fashion spread reenacting women authors committing suicide. This is my response. Feel free to share this with your folks via email, text, post, tweet….
Author: Aya de Leon. Dress: Betsey Johnson, vintage.
Accessories: Rag for incineration, Vice Magazine fiction issue featuring women writers suicide fashion spread. Photo by Micia Mosely
Read the full piece featured on Bitch Magazine’s blog.
Here is the image I am parodying from Vice:
When I first saw the post in Jezebel about Vice magazine’s women writers suicide fashion spread, I was horrified and furious. It just reflects these incredibly mean spirited times, when the most painful and vulnerable parts of peoples’ lives are considered raw materials to be exposed, parodied, and sensationalized. This is particularly true for women, and women writers bravely put our lives and our truths out there in a way that is particularly vulnerable to ridicule and attack.
I knew I had to say something, so I pitched the idea of “99 Reasons I As A Woman Writer Will Not Be Killing Myself” to Bitch editor Sarah Mirk, and she was excited about it. I have spent the last couple of days developing the piece, a mix of epiphanies from my own process with emotional challenges, personal aspirations, and the names of women authors who have made a difference in my life. The women on this list are both living and deceased, established and up and coming. They write fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and have all influenced me greatly in one way or another.
Some women on the list have helped shape my thinking and worldview, like Audre Lorde, Charlotte Kasl, and Diane Balser. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a personal connection with Charlotte and currently have Diane helping me think about representations of the sex industry for my current novel-in-progress. Other women on the list have taught and mentored me—some in depth like Aurora Levins Morales and Jill Dearman, still others briefly like Nikki Finney, Patricia Smith and Toi Derricotte. The list also includes younger women I have taught and mentored.
Some of the women on the list are household names, and I hope to meet them one day. Others you will never have heard of but if you google them, you’ll find great work. Still others you won’t find online as authors, because their books are still in early formation. But I honor them, because they have been part of my women’s writing community. This has included writer’s circles, artist support groups, creative partnerships, etc., that I’ve organized or participated in over the years. For almost 25 years, this community has held and nurtured me from the first idea that I wanted to write. They’ve supported me through the ups and downs of developing a body of work in spoken word, poetry, short fiction, short memoir, and hip hop theater. Many of them are part of my current support system helping me transition to being a novelist.
I couldn’t fit everyone, because there were only 99 reasons! First of all, I only focused on fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. So my favorite women academics, filmmakers, comedians, and playwrights didn’t make the list. There are other women writers I greatly admire (Alice Walker, Mohja Kahf and Naomi Wolf come to mind) who got cut to make room for younger writers or the unknown women writers in my day to daily life.
I am truly blessed to have such a strong community. Just yesterday, as I was writing the piece, comedian/educator Micia Mosely was coming over to my house for a work date (to combat isolation, we bring our laptops and work together at each other’s houses or at a café). I asked her to take the photo with my camera phone, and she did a great job. Then she even taught me how to crop it.
At the end of the day, I have many, many more than 99 reasons to be completely committed to living my life and writing. I am grateful to all the women who have gone before me, all the women writers who stand with me, all the women writers I have yet to meet, and all the women writers who are yet to come. And to all of the women readers whom we touch. All of our lives are precious.