Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha. If you’re the kind of femme who reads a lot of “femme theory” books – or if you’re the kind of feminist who reads a lot of social justice essays – you’ve probably heard of this chicky. Well. She happened to be in Ottawa last night (Saturday, July 20th) to do a reading-and-socializing evening at Venus Envy.
Now, in spite of hunting up as much of her writing as I could (she hasn’t profoundly changed how I view the world, for the most part, but she was the first – quite possibly the only – femme who openly ID’d as bisexual in the entirety of Fem(me): Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls and, thus, was the person who gave me the clue that maybe, just maybe, this word could apply to me. And that’s a pretty big deal), I was a little worried about seeing her read/speak live.
I always am.
There’s always a little bit of fear in the back of my mind saying: What if this person who is so awesome on paper winds up being kind of insufferable – or possibly just a bad speaker – in real life?
So far… that hasn’t actually happened. Not much, anyway. But it remains and so I strolled over to VE – in a blue sundress that used to be my grandmother’s, plus flip-flops[1] and glitter mascara – with my lovely wife, hoping that I wasn’t about to regretting dropping $20 on the evening.
Readers, I do not regret dropping $20 on that evening. 🙂
She read excerpts from The Revolution Starts at Home and her forthcoming memoir (which, when it comes out next year, I will most likely be buying). I cried. (I’m a crier, what can I say). And then she read poetry. Yay Poetry! 😀
I finally got to hear “When Kali and Oya Met”, a poem from Consensual Genocide that, because my copy came from an early print-run that contained a major misprint (i.e.: Eleven of the poems were missing and had, instead, been replaced by repeats of poems from earlier in the book), I had yet to hear. It was sweet and sad, and it reminded me of my ex-girlfriend, a little bit, truth be told.
My two take-aways from the show – other than that Leah is a pretty awesome chicky who seems far more interested in being kind (not the same as nice, mind you) than in being right-all-the-time – were:
1) The question of “What kind of ancestor do I want to be?” – This is a question that prompted a poem from Leah, but it’s also something I take into consideration myself.
2) What does “decolonization” mean to me, given that I’m a white chick who doesn’t want to move back to Scotland, and given that the whole thing is probably a lot more nuanced than the “White people, go home” idea that tends to spring to my mind when I first try to think about this? (That, I think, will take up an entire blog post of its own).
After the show, there were nachos and karaoke to be had, but also a chat about the whole concept of creating and seeking out justice-alternatives to the police and the courts. Things that came up:
1) Bridge-building goes in multiple directions and no-one is going to change their behaviour for people who are Opting Out and having nothing to do with them
2) Change takes a long, long time (especially when it involves changing both a corporate culture and the systemic-oppressive culture that underlies it both for the oppressors and the oppress-ees) and, in the mean-time, there are still people who can’t or don’t trust The System and who, therefore, would appreciate some alternative options
3) It is really, really, REALLY difficult to get a system (or a person, for that matter) to change when it has no examples of how it would or could look/act/be if it were different. Thus creating alternative justice options can, itself, be a form of the afore-mentioned bridge-building because they can stand as examples of how to Do This differently while still being[2] effective.
So that was my evening at the Leah Lakshmi show, and (so far) everything that came of it. 🙂
Ms Syren.
[1] My hips and knees still work – hurrah! But, since I’d like to keep it that way, it means that high heels (alas) are for sidewalk-walks of no more than about six minutes.
[2] I know. One’s opinion of how effective it is will have a LOT to do with how invested one is in both (a) cultural narratives about who is and is not a Good Guy, and (b) the already-existing system. But bear with me.