Write angry for the daughters of Hope

art by ultradialectics
art by ultradialectics

Okay, motherfucker, I’m enough. You know what? I’m enough. I’m the baddest bitch around, there’s razorwire in my blood, I can clap my hands and summon an army of ravenous corpses from the cracks in the pavement, I can throw my tennis shoes over the telephone wires and turn them into a murder of hungry crows. I can spread my hands and break the world open, release one hundred thousand-eyed seraphs to see your soul to ruins. I have a wolf’s bite; I have a pack at my heels. My mothers were harpies and furies, my sisters were the Morrigan, my daughter will be fucking Kali. My grandmothers burned but saw me to birth in centuries of ash, and it doesn’t matter that I always run away and it doesn’t matter that I’m trying to drive a devil’s bargain with a grunting, sweating fifth grader, and it doesn’t matter that you made me cry all those times before, because you think I’m not enough? You piece of shit? I can roll up my sleeves and tear off my skin and make you fucking *cease to exist.*

That could have happened. It could have.

I’m telling you this so you know.

 Not too long ago, I wrote about something I’m determined to do more of this year, namely: I’m going to write about what hurts. I talked about how hard this is for me, about how I feel like it takes courage that not everyone has, but how it’s necessary for good work, or at least I think it is. And included this quote from Anne Lamott:

[Y]ou can’t get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in – then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.

I was focusing on pain and grief, but I think we do need to give equal space to anger, anger in writing, the rage that comes out of the pain that we go through. I’ve been thinking especially about the rage of marginalized voices, the voices of women and queer people and people of color and people with disabilities and all intersections of all marginalized identities. In my experience, our stories are often sorrowful and full of pain, but they can also be so angry, and I feel like being angry in that position is much less socially acceptable.

I think a lot of us are taught that writing can be about pain, but writing can’t or shouldn’t be vengeance – which isn’t actually that separate from justice. We’re taught not to write angry. We’re taught that lashing out is unseemly, heavy-handed, blunt, and just plain rude.

And that’s all just bullshit designed to make us shut up and sit down and behave.

So I’m trying to get comfortable with writing angry. Because I think we need to. It’s like squeezing poison out of a wound, but it’s more than that: it’s squeezing poison onto the system that poisoned you and burning some of it away. Maybe only a little bit of it, but it’s something. It’s resistance. Acknowledging anger and the legitimacy of anger is liberation.

The passage at the top of the page is from a short story called “Singing With All My Skin and Bone”, which will be appearing in Nightmare at some point this year. I wrote it angry, profoundly angry. The majority of it is hugely autobiographical, and I had to dig down into some buried rage to get it out. It took me years to really be okay with being angry about a lot of the things that happened to me when I was a kid. My most recent story, “So Sharp That Blood Must Flow” – in Lightspeed – is angry (Lois Tilton over at Locus called it “cruel”, which made me so happy). It was written in response to a lot of what was happening in the SF&F community in the last year; I was angry and had nothing really to do with it, but I found a thematic frame for it and spun my Little Mermaid some bloody revenge.

She’s singing as she begins to cut off his legs with the blade. It is very sharp. The witch gave it magic. He can’t scream, of course, as his blood pools on the deck and drips through the slats, but she can feel his cries echoing in her own throat and she turns them into music. To this music, she thinks, she’d dance on knives.

She’d dance and she’d laugh, her teeth glistening like rubies in her mouth.

Anger can be beautiful. Anger can be graceful. Augustine of Hippo said that Hope has two beautiful daughters, Anger and Courage: “Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Anger is necessary. Anger is righteous. Anger is change. We need to find anger and make our stories out of it. But if Anger and Courage are sisters, then they also need each other – we need courage to be angry, and we need anger to be courageous.

So do it. Get with the daughters of Hope. Write angry. Make it words, put it out there into the world, and let it shine.

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