Sharing Untold Stories

. December 1, 2019.

Love and Other Futures presents poetry by women of color

When the five founding sisters of Untold Stories of Liberation and Love, a series of writing workshops for women of color, came together to discuss the idea, none of them could have anticipated how warmly the idea would be received. The resulting Love & Other Futures: Untold Stories of Liberation & Love is a poetry collection created by Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and Arab women from Washtenaw County. We spoke with Tanya Reza, one of the founding sisters of the project and a poet featured in the collection, to discuss the three sections of the book born from the workshops: “Untold Stories of Mothering,” “Untold Stories of Migration. Rootedness. Belonging,” and “Untold Stories of Survival & Vision.”

Mothering

Reza and the founding members began brainstorming how they would organize the workshops and sections of the book, landing on motherhood as the first theme. “Mothering came up, and the fact that many women of color are disconnected from their histories, or how there’s loss in migration— that connection to homeland,” says Reza. “Or the question, ‘what is home?’ That’s how we chose that topic.”

“Untold Stories of Mothering” explores the comforts of mothers and family, but, most interestingly, it explores the intergenerational rebellion that goes hand-in-hand with mother-daughter relationships in particular. Crys S. Campbell’s “(How to be a) Fast Girl” comes to mind, with its struggle to be at home with the self, to assert autonomy, trying on different identities until it’s no longer an act, but the real you.

Migration. Rootedness. Belonging.

Reza’s own poem within the second section of Untold Stories continues the exploration of intergenerational trauma with “Home,” a piece that propels family members through time in a snap-shot vision of their journey and what it means to be safe, and how that safety is such a driving force in the search for home.

“I wrote it prior to actually joining the collective,” explains Reza. “As the child of immigrants, I was reflecting on my own family’s experiences. I think really the spark for [“Home”] was the current crisis at the border. Just knowing those children are being torn from their families. I felt like I wanted to honor that somehow, but also take into account just the global experience of what it means to migrate, why people migrate, what they’re leaving behind and what they’re hoping for in their future.”

Survival & Vision

The final section from the workshop “Untold Stories of Survival and Vision,” is about how “we’ve survived,” says Reza. “Now how do we move forward and move forward together?”

This section and the collection of a whole is representative of the community involvement and activism that brought many of the poets together in the first place. As Reza’s bio reads, she is interested in “how poetry, storytelling and social justice intersect.”

She thinks that “sometimes we underestimate the value of art and the movement for social justice. Art is an important part of healing, communicating and expression in terms of building community, in terms of understanding one another. Seeing it happen in real time— people coming together and sharing their stories, their experiences— how that storytelling and that sharing is healing for the community. Also, in some ways, by coming together we’re figuring out a way forward out of the crisis.”

The artwork throughout the book is filled with pictures of the women interacting— eating, laughing, sharing, and writing. What was so striking to me when reading the collection and seeing those images interspersed between the poems was how at home they were with each other.

“For me, it was always incredibly moving to be in those spaces and those workshops,” Reza reflects. “I got really lucky to have found this group of women and to have been part of this project. It was really different from things I’ve worked on in the past in the way that it was incredibly nourishing and healing to be part of it. I’m so thankful for that.”

The recently released ‘Love & Other Futures: Untold Stories of Liberation & Love’ can be found in Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center, 214 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti. Black Stone is the only Black-owned independent bookstore in Washtenaw County. You can also find the book on Amazon.com.

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