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Educators Reading & Writing Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Woman. Warrior. Writer. Anjali Enjeti

February 2022’s Woman Warrior Writer is Anjali Enjeti. Anjali Enjeti is a former attorney, organizer, and journalist based near Atlanta. She is the author of Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change, and The Parted Earth. Her writing has appeared in Oxford AmericanPoets & WritersHarper’s Bazaar, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Reinhardt University and can be reached through her website, anjalienjeti.com.

How did you come to author your life?

Writing is not something I pursued with any intention the first 28 years of my life. I read several books a week. I journaled. I studied narrative. But I couldn’t picture myself as an author. I didn’t feel as if it was something available to me. 

The birth of my first child changed this. I was not only flooded with words and stories about my life, I felt, for the first time, that these words carried with them some kind of value. It took a monumental moment in my life – becoming a mother for the first time – that opened the door for me to author my own life.

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Belief and Philosophy Blog Hawai'i Reading & Writing Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

2022 SOCIAL MEDIA

For 2022 I’ll be posting the majority of my content on wellness, writing, reading, and giving writer discounts/tips on Substack (so please sign up for my newsletter). I’ll post on Youtube.

You will be able to see 2022 Woman Warrior Writer here, but for more content, please subscribe!

I review books and consider writing for my classes — primarily Asian American and BIWOC. I cover fiction, memoir, self-help, and poetry (poetry emphasis on literacy, access, narrative).  I do not cover YA, mystery, detective, thriller, academic work. Feel free to contact me.

For author interviews, Woman Warrior Writer suggestions, comments, questions about articles, content, manuscripts, teaching, and/or speaking, please connect or email [email protected]

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Blog Educators Hawai'i Reading & Writing Teachers Woman Warrior Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Woman. Warrior. Writer. Darien Hsu Gee

November’s Woman Warrior is Darien Hsu Gee ! Darien is the author of five novels published by Penguin Random House that have been translated into eleven languages. She is also the recipient of an IPPY award for her collection of micro essays, Allegiance (2020); a Poetry Society of America’s Chapbook Fellowship for Other Small Histories (2019); and a Hawai‘i Book Publishers’ Ka Palapala Poʻokela Award of Excellence for Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir (2015). She lives with her family on the Island of Hawai‘i and serves as series editor for Haliʻa Aloha, a micro memoir writing and hybrid publishing program.
How did you come to author your life?
I’ve never been good at listening to other people. I’ve had cheerleaders and naysayers, not to mention my own nagging doubt and self-sabotage, but I’ve always managed to right the ship and get back on course. It hasn’t been easy, but a writer’s life isn’t easy. I know the risks and sacrifices. I’ve worked hard, I’ve been lucky, I have some regrets. It’s in my bones. I’m willing to own it all, even when it’s hard or seemingly impossible. 

 

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Belief and Philosophy Divorce Reading & Writing Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Reasons for Women to Write Their Divorce Story

Women are storytellers and consciously or unconsciously constantly use stories to communicate. We navigate life telling, remembering, and listening to stories. The key is to be conscious and to honor this powerful ability within ourselves. For how many thousands of years have women told stories to children before they sleep, or used stories to explain a moral rule or household habit? We know the stories of our community, and we are often entrusted, whether we like it or not, to be the holder of family secrets. We find it easy to contain and hold and tell the stories of those we know and love. More complicated, for reasons that I will explore in the coming pages, is putting ourselves both literally and metaphorically as the central protagonist in our own grand story called Life. When we center ourselves as characters in our story, the one that we live and write, we validate ourselves. Writing our story, what happened and what we felt about what happened, is one of the most powerful ways that women can define, heal, and reckon with ourselves.

A divorce story forces us to center ourselves within the context of our own life. Willingly or unwillingly, we as women have frequently been assigned roles that have translated into prioritizing others needs before our own. By default and extension, we become reluctant to claim a space for ourselves, and in turn, the best we can often muster up, is to claim a segment of others’ stories for our own. While any story has many characters, we can do this to the point where we forget our story, downplay our role in others’ stories, deprive another of their own story to live to satisfy the absence of our own story, and most tragically, and all too common, think that we never had a story, or that our story was secondary to another’s because such a person received more external validation in terms of money or status.

Women are almost always rewarded for compliance, for putting others first every step of their lives and are bestowed praise for living the accepted narrative of a helpmate to everyone within a world governed by men. Our names change upon marriage. We are not on stage; we are Stage Mothers. Our salaries our lower. Our hours are longer. We are the stop gap go-to person for when all systems fail, when a family’s in crisis, a car malfunctions, a child is sick, or when someone is laid off. Everyone turns to us for caregiving. The status quo rewards us for making our story shorter, for functioning solely as a prelude to the stories labeled more significant, even if they are the stories of our loved ones. We almost always define ourselves in relation to another person and if we fail to do this according to an imagined bar of sacrifice and service, we feel poorly about ourselves or others judge as inferior or lesser. There is a huge difference between living a story that exemplifies love, loyalty, and kindness, and being measured as worthy because of what compromises one has made to exist in a relationship with another. 

Divorce is often the first time we may consider the real depth of our individuality. We may have always told the story of our marriages, relationships, romance, and families with the royal plural “We” as opposed to the humble first person “I”. This is how writing a divorce story can empower: if we were firmly entrenched in the “we” of being a couple, becoming the main character of the story is a shock to the system! There are a minimum of three stories in every marriage. The “I” story of each individual and the the “We” story they mutually narrate about their coupledom. It is vitally important to state that our lives do not exist in a vacuum, and that we are deeply affected and directed by the culture of our time. 

Once we recount the story of what happened in our marriage and what we felt about what happened, we can boldly claim space in a new arena. The story of a public life almost always sets the man’s story as first, the woman’s story as secondary. As women, the divorce story we share with honesty, is the story of the marriage wholly from our personal perspective. Know that writing this personal story solely from our own hearts is not an act of selfishness, but an act of personal volition. It is saying to the world: My story is worth telling because I have value. 

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Belief and Philosophy Break Divorce Reading & Writing Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Divorce and Voice

When writers, readers, and critics speak of a writer’s voice they are referencing the writer’s chosen words that reveal the writer’s self, how she perceives and moves in the world. Voice is the writer’s soul and spirit, and how the writer brings this to the page is the writer’s voice. Being honest to our voice, to who we are, is the key task in the writing of a story, and our life’s most significant mission. If we cannot be who we are, then who shall we be?

When we refer to a writer’s voice, most telling and daunting is that there exists a distinctly proscribed way of conveying written text codified by primarily male writers. It has been this way for centuries. It will continue to be this way. In the process of trying to convey our story, we quiet or even lose our voice because we are fearful. We strive to appease or appeal to people who judge us according to an unknown or mysterious standard that often, we can never achieve as it is rather subjective. And yet, it is imperative that we persevere and risk writing who we are as otherwise, our voice is silent, and if ours, then many other women who are out there too. When we are courageous about our voice, we pave the way for dozens of others to follow suit.

We must have faith in the story. Believe in our right to write. While writing is a learned skill, the ability to reveal who we are is directly correlated to our willingness to be vulnerable on the page. Our words are meaningful because our story matters. The voice that we summon is one that acknowledges our full self. This voice is the beautiful, courageous, resilient, complete self who has declared her right to live as a one who wants to set the terms of her own life.

Whoever controls the text controls the story. A delivery through the medium of writing often prompts a different reaction because texts impart a permanence. Words on a page compel an undeniable respect. Every major cultural, religious, legal, and creative institution’s laws and customs are upheld, reinforced, and codified by text. Someone writes the text; another person interprets this text; yet another person writes a story based on this interpretation. We are readers of a story several layers away from the primary text. Imagine what remains and what changes. Given this truth, it’s important to throw your own voice into this layered chorus and write with everything you are. You are your voice. Write your truth to power.

 We may feel inhibited about the physical act of putting words down on a page. An easy solution is to simply pretend that we are speaking to someone: talk to the page! For accuracy, we record our voice with a phone or device, and transcribe the spoken words. Edit for clarity. Speaking and writing use different parts of our brain, but know that communication is linked, writing inhibition is real, and however we get our words onto the page will be fine. The vast majority of the globe’s illiterate are women, but our wisdom transcends what is written; this is how we have survived through the millennia. Know that through the power of our oral storytelling we write a story on the page—for those of us who cannot write we put our words down on paper. We do this by recording our story.

A woman’s voice is often considered dangerous. How often are women accused of being shrill? The numerous complaints about a woman’s voice—her accent, her tone, her articulation are familiar to anyone follows the commentary about women in the public spotlight. There are no end of complaints about the actual pitch of a woman’s voice, but what most dig at is a particular woman’s willingness to use her voice in an arena that women rarely participate in.

Breaking silence is looked upon as disruptive and to break the silence about our marriage, enshrined across the globe as an institution to maintain stability within a system of patriarchy, is considered at best poor taste, and at worst, a display worthy of public condemnation. Marriage is considered private. Personal. And it is. But to dismantle a marriage through divorce requires outside documentation (just as marriage did), and to write the details of this break-up potentially place women in the position of being seen as dangerous. We may or may not be the very first woman in our family to divorce, but it is highly likely that we are the first woman who records the reasons for the divorce. It is inconvenient, if not unpleasant for most people to be presented with anything that disrupts the norm. The truth is the details that prompted your divorce are unimportant to most, but they are important to you, and therefore worth writing.

You may be quiet, someone who is reluctant to expose your private happenings to anyone, but you have a right to exercise the use of your voice. There is no reason for your silence.

Write your divorce story. Discuss the inclusion of your divorce story in your legal file.

Write your story. Change your mind. Author your life.

 

 

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Belief and Philosophy Blog Hawai'i Health Self-help

Hawai’i: Friendship

I spent the ages of 13-17 in boarding school at Phillips Academy Andover. I say now that the only time I wasn’t competing was when I was sleeping. Andover was about performance, excellence, and achievement within the very specific parameters of the East Coast establishment.

In retrospect my journey in life has been highly influenced by the relatively short amount of time I attended that school. I lost touch with almost everyone I knew from that time, and as the years passed came to wonder if I had imagined the friendships I had cultivated there.

In the end, I concluded that the majority of the ways that we were taught to behave were in fact oppositional to how one cultivates friendship and compassion, and the relationships were primarily utilitarian. Adolescence is a difficult time, never mind if you are thrown into an environment that focuses on your believed potential. I deeply appreciated learning the profound lessons of literary analysis, and yes, the testing of one’s abilities is part of growing up.

But true friendship is rarely made of this stuff. It’s about kindness, support, and tolerance. It’s about the joys and foibles of a human relationship. Compassion. Foibles. Joys. Forgiveness. Connection of the spirit and heart. I would like to say that I developed a host of friendships from Andover, but truly, I did not. I’d say I had hundreds of acquaintances, some very close, but could rarely be myself, although what teen is herself? That’s the nature of being a teen! Figuring it out! I will say that if a true friendship was developed and survived from that time, it is likely to be real. Like many private institutions for the elite, it functioned as a place of networking.

For years in my adult life I avoided anyone having to do with the school. I questioned if I had anything in common with them, politically, emotionally, or socially. It was designed to be an environment of handpicked children who were anointed by the Admissions Office Gods as young leaders in the making. After I left, I didn’t feel I was leading in anything. Where was I supposed to lead someone? Why me? Who is leading? Can’t I follow? I’m tired! Where are we heading? This leading stuff is very not mellow! she said…in cowardice? With anxiety? When I did bother to check in on what was going on with most of the people, I noted how many of them continued to compete, and behave in a manner I deeply questioned for reasons of ethics and kindness.

 

During COVID I reconnected with my old dormmate and friend Catherine Cotins. We had seen each other once over a decade ago when I was in Boston for a conference, having found each other again on social media. We had lost touch since high school graduation and had gone on our separate paths, navigating our way through school, children, illness, deaths, work, marriage, divorce, and the long river of life with everything that it throws your way.

A few months ago Cathy Cotins came to Hawai’i. We talked, hiked, laughed, and went out stand-up paddleboarding and got tired shoulders. I met her son and she met mine. She went to dinner with mom and dad after all that time. Her son was older than she was when she had last seen my parents. She had spent the summer after senior year with my family while we toiled in my dad’s lab injecting rats with diseases (more on that later…I know how to swiftly break a rat’s neck, but uh, haven’t used that dubious skill ever since. Any science interest either one of us remotely had was dead by the end of that summer!). We couldn’t stop talking and sharing. What was both meaningful, reassuring, and exciting about meeting up with each other was knowing that I did have a true friend who knew who I was so long ago, and here we are, decades later, and we still have this connection.

 

She gave me this little book I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast about friendship and inscribed these words: “…I hope we can always stay friends. We’re so different so much the same, and good compliments to each other all at the same time. We may not do that much together, but when we do something, it’s always so much fun no matter how small…The world isn’t such a bad place with friends like you in it.”

Andover was hard on both of us, an experience we wanted to forget for our own individual reasons. I’m so glad we are friends again and know I will know her the rest of my life. This is a fantastic feeling.

Cathy texted me after she returned, both of us so happy to have reconnected and said this about seeing each other, especially in the context of that hard time during school and what it did: I feel less broken.

That’s what a good friendship does—it heals and opens you through connection. It changes the future and present as it changes the memories of a place and time. By reconnecting again, the ending changed, and in this way, everything else ripples back and forth and flows with a different sense of meaning. We get better through knowing and sharing with other people. We need people to cheer us on in life, to empathize and to be compassionate with us. This friendship makes me so very happy. She’s thousands of miles away, but there are few people in life who get who you are and to know someone does! What a great feeling! I feel honored to call Cathy my friend!

This is all to say that yes, get in touch with that person you once knew, because there is a good chance that what you will find out is that you did know each other, you were friends, and that can make all the difference as you journey on discovering who you are. Because the way that someone knows you, if the person really knows you, is probably important and a reminder of possibility and dreams. You are there for each other. Connect. Reconnect. Friendship.