BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Books are a huge part of my life. You could say that books are my life. This summer, I read an incredible chapbook that enriched my life, made me angry, made me sad, made me feel a little less alone. As a sexual assault survivor, reading about assault, harassment, and sexual violence can be hard.
There are so many emotions that come into play, but while it can be difficult, it can also be connective. It is inspiring to know there are others who are fighting to change the stigmas and shed light on how stereotypes and misogynistic thinking needs to change in order to prevent sexual abuse. Ashley Miranda's forthcoming chapbook, dolores in spanish is pain, dolores in lolita is a girl (Glass Poetry Press, 2019), is just that.
Miranda is a phenomenal poet. The collection focuses on violence against women and girls; the first poem sets the tone, especially with the line: "the girls are still violent victims wading through their floral processions." The collection showcases how girls and women don't have ownership or control, and are seen as mere objects. Sexual assault isn't just a one-time occurrence; its effects stay long after the trauma has occurred, and the poems portray this masterfully.
Lolita is used as a running example of this in the collection (with an imagined interview with Nabakov), along with Dolores, and other speakers that are undefined, but united by their power and powerlessness, as they are constantly negotiating how to own themselves: "let’s talk about willingness. i am willing to visualize you as a burlesque abortion. you’re an aftertaste i can’t mask with mint" (6).
What the collection does so well is focus on girlhood in a way that is honest in a world where it is often underrepresented:
"how can young girls not be mature when men fondle them, creating a dimension where suddenly young girls must protect themselves, create a reality where young girls are responsible for the actions of older men
young girls must come to terms that no one is to be trusted and even sundresses can be a signal for violence" (24).
This is definitely a chapbook you need to read and reread again and again; its subject matter could not be more important, but also, these poems could not have been written any other way.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014),The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (Operating System, 2017), Sexting Ghosts (Unknown Press, 2018), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes Poetry and the managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente