Dear Sister, Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence by Lisa Factora-Borchers (Editor); forewood by Aishah Shahidah Simmons
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It wasn’t your fault; it was never your fault. You did nothing wrong. Hold this tight to your heart: it wasn’t your fault.
At night when you lay there and your mind fills with images and you wonder if only, if you had . . . if you hadn’t . . . . Remember: it wasn’t your fault.
Dear Sister shares the lessons, memories, and vision of over fifty artists, activists, mothers, writers, and students who share their stories of survival or what it means to be an advocate and ally to survivors. Written in an epistolary format, this multi-generational, multi-ethnic collection of letters and essays is a moving journey into the hearts and minds of the survivors of rape, incest, and other forms of sexual violence, written directly to and for other survivors.
Dear Sister goes far beyond traditional books about healing that use “experts” to explain the experience of survivors to the rest of the world. Here, we learn what the world looks like through the eyes of a survivor. From a professor in the Midwest to a poet in Belgium, an escapee from a child prostitution ring, an advocate in the Congo, and a sex worker in San Francisco, Dear Sister touches on issues of feminism, love, disability, gender, justice, identity, and spirituality.
Praise for Dear Sister:
“This chilling, heartbreaking, and necessary collection consists of letters from 40 artists, activists, writers, and students, who are survivors of sexual assault and here offer counsel to ‘sister’ survivors. Every story is shadowed by the teller’s sense of shame, brokenness, depression, and pain, but at the same time, in anticipation of the addressees’ experience of sexual assault, the letters also offer comfort, solidarity, reassurance, the possibility of healing, and testimony of survival.”—Publishers Weekly
“There is nothing on earth more changeful than telling our stories honestly, and listening to the stories of others with an open heart. That’s especially true for survivors of sexualized violence who’ve been silenced by shame. These 50 brave Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence will open floodgates of memory, expose body-invasion as the most traumatic of crimes, and show victimizers the roots and damage of their acts. I’m very grateful to Lisa Factora-Borchers for editing this book, to Aishah Shahida Simmons whose foreword sets a high bar of honesty, and to all the voices in it. I think you will be, too.”—Gloria Steinem
Lisa Factora-Borchers is a Filipina writer and editor of the Dear Sister anthology. Lisa worked extensively with survivors of sexual violence in non profits, coalitions, and university settings before applying her work to the literary world. She was an assistant editor at make/shift magazine for three years, and her work can be found in Left Turn, Critical Moment, and Bitch magazines. Her interests focus on liberation, spirituality, (im)migration, US women of color writers, and transnational feminist action.
Aishah Shahidah Simmons is a Black feminist lesbian filmmaker, writer, international lecturer, and activist. An incest and rape survivor, she is the producer, writer and director of the internationally acclaimed, award-winning film NO! The Rape Documentary. She presently teaches in the Women’s Studies and LGBT Studies programs at Temple University. A member of the Editorial Collective of the online magazine The Feminist Wire, Aishah’s cultural work and activism have been documented extensively in a wide range of media outlets including The Root, Crisis, Forbes, Left of Black, In These Times, Ms., Alternet, ColorLines, The Philadelphia Weekly, National Public Radio (NPR), Pacifica Radio Network, and Black Entertainment Television (BET).
Other contributors include: Aaminah Shakur, Adrienne Maree Brown, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Allison McCarthy, Amita Y. Swadhin, Amy Ernst, Ana Heaton, Andrea Harris, Angel Propps, anna Saini, Anne Averyt, annu Saini, brownfemipower, Brooke Benoit, Denise Santomauro, Desire Vincent, Dorla Harris, “Harriet J.”, Indira Allegra, Isabella Gitana-Woolf, Joan Chen, Judith Stevenson, Juliet November, Kathleen Ahern, Kyisha, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Marianne Kirby, Maroula Blades, Mary Zelinka, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Melissa Dey Hasbrook, Melissa G., Mia Mingus, Michelle Ovalle, Premala Matthen, Rebecca Echeverria, Renee Martin, River Willow Fagan, Sara Durnan, Sarah M. Cash, Shala Bennett, Shanna Katz, Sofia Rose Smith, Sumayyah Talibah, Sydette Harry, Birdy, Viannah E. Duncan, and Zöe Flowers.
Correction notice to the first edition:
AK Press and Lisa Factora-Borchers deeply regret an error printed in the first print edition of Dear Sister: on pages 54-58, Judith Stevenson’s piece is split into two, and the second half is incorrectly attributed to Joan Chen, whose lovely untitled sketch does not appear. We are so apologetic to these two amazing contributors for our error and for any stress caused to them by this unfortunate misprint.