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All of Me: Stories of Love, Anger, and the Female Bodya new anthology edited by Dani Burlison, centers the body—the body in search for justice, the body in pursuit of freedom, the body that needs care and healing, the body that is finding new ways to love. Burlison, a writer and teacher based in Santa Rosa, put together the anthology after publishing her Lady Parts zine series over the last couple years, which explored similar territory.
About to start work on a third zine, she instead sent the concept for All of Me to PM Press on the advice of a friend. Less than a week later, they told her they were interested in publishing it as an anthology. The resulting collection, which includes essays from Lidia YuknavitchNayomi MunaweeraMelissa Chadburn, and Starhawk, Women want sex Burlison many others, centers an intersectional, radical feminism with a decidedly though not exclusively Northern California bent.
The questions driving the collection include: How is this living in my body today? What has happened to me that deserves attention, care, affirmation, and permission? What do I need to speak about and remember as I continue the work of trying to dismantle the oppressive structures I live within? Dani and I spoke recently about what it means to write while centering the body, practices for de-commodifying self-care, and the ways anger can become fuel for change.
The Rumpus: Reading this collection felt a bit like going to a delicious feminist potluck in terms of what was on offer. And you were very mindful about how you curated the guest list. Dani Burlison: Yes. I think one piece that was really important to me when I put this collection together was including voices of trans women, who have been so pushed out of a lot of feminist spaces. That made it even more important to me.
I also made sure to include more voices of women of color than of straight, cis, white women in the book. Because a lot of feminist spaces are just centered around a certain type of feminist woman. How did you work with this challenging or sensitive material? How did you decide what best to do as an editor in those situations? Burlison: I teach memoir writing classes; I have been for almost six years now. The thing that comes up with my students over and over is: How do we express our vulnerability and be honest? I was really conscious with that and discussed it with the contributors, especially with a couple people that I interviewed.
There are also two other writers in the book who use aliases because their stories could have put them at risk. My priority, even more so than getting these experiences and voices out there, was to protect them and Women want sex Burlison them feel safe sharing.
As a writer, I felt a bit anxious sharing my very personal story about having an abortion in a clinic that was firebombed within a day after I left. This was in and I still have this piece of me that gets so anxious and triggered because of how violent and terrible the protesters were to me that day. Then there was a time period in high school when I really started getting angry and lashing out. I had to go to this terrible anger management group for teenagers. In that particular group, I felt so shamed.
They were like: Anger is bad, stuff it down, get rid of it! It was super dysfunctional and unhealthy. But I was sixteen or seventeen. After that, anytime I felt angry about anything I just thought, this is terribleand I internalized it and felt guilty. And I felt angry at myself for feeling angry. Then I got really far away from that town and that culture.
It started with activism—I was angry about things Women want sex Burlison of myself. Not even necessarily things that were happening to me or that I was experiencing on a personal level. But being angry about the issues I was working on at that time, in my early twenties, that helped. That became this entry point for me to start feeling okay with expressing my own anger. I still get so pissed about it! That activism was the entry point into seeing that anger can actually be fuel for changing things in a positive way.
Rumpus: Going back to your essay, can you tell us more about the process of writing it? And so I wondered sometimes if I had just been dramatic, and if it was really that bad. But I found this amazing article written several years after my abortion that was in the Chronicleabout how the place I went was one of the scariest clinics in California. It was protested more heavily than any other one. It was firebombed and burned down by the same guy twice. The reporter, through his interviewing, painted this picture that was so validating for me.
Like, I was not overreacting. Those protestors were extreme, and terrifying. It took me a long time to write about it. I was also nervous about my kids finding out.
I have a twenty-three-year-old and an eighteen-year-old now so they were both teenagers at the time when I first started working on the essay. I just felt so nervous about how they were going to react to me. Revisiting that time was pretty intense but it was good for me to get it out, to get out that last little nugget of shame that had been put upon me.
Through the research I did, I found out that this guy had burned like seven clinics down. I mean, talk about fucking rage. There are men, mostly, out there terrorizing women at clinics. That was a big part for me to include in that story.
And to talk about that level of organized violence against women that happens in this particular way. Not everyone thinks about the body as an entryway into writing, but how did that become a part of your approach to both writing and editing? You can feel the emotion. Where am I feeling this in my body? I recently got certified as a trauma-informed yoga instructor, too, which is one of the things that helped me through this process of working on this book.
Especially with women, telling our stories about our bodies.
Rumpus: There was one part in your conversation with Ariel Gore where you two talked about wanting to welcome in new activists that are feeling motivated after the election. And you two spoke about that balance of wanting people to feel welcome who are newer to activism but also wanting to hold people to high standards with their behavior. Burlison: I have this conversation a lot. But I believe having patience with people is so important. Not everybody is going to be perfect from the get go. Not everyone Women want sex Burlison going to have the perfect behavior or communication style.
That self-righteousness can be so alienating. And those perfect standards that people hold themselves to. We need younger generations with their energy and drive, and their hearts in the right place, to really be supported by old people like me. The idea of being out marching, being in a blockade for hours and hours, well it would take me a long time to bounce back from that. So physically, literally, we need people that have healthier bodies to help take it on. I just raised two kids by myself. Understanding that, and embracing all the pieces, would do us a lot of good right now.
Burlison: I think caring for others can be as simple as spending time with people that you care about. That can Women want sex Burlison tie back into how we take care of ourselves, which is challenging for me but I try all the time to be really present with myself. Like maybe over the course of the week I allow myself to take one nap, that could be my self-care. Being present is such a basic thing. Sitting for ten minutes and checking in with ourselves is affordable and accessible. But like you said, we look at self-care in this way of being overindulgent, like, I need to go to the spa.
Having community is so important, spending time with people I love and making space for the ridiculous, too. These are all huge reliefs. Trying to find ways to take care of ourselves and to be in community with other people, other women specifically for me, is important to balance it out a bit. It makes me feel better to imagine that some people will survive all of this and they will learn things from it and want our testimony of how it was.
This book felt like an amazing slice of the present moment for those future people. And that these voices encourage other people to share their stories. Photograph of Dani Burlison by Ruby Casteel. Photograph of Lady Parts courtesy of Dani Burlison. Burlison: I love that. I want a professional relationship with my anger!Women want sex Burlison
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