San Diego, CA—Just as America struggles within itself against “us versus them” stances and notions of greatness that apply to a narrowly defined range of stories, a unique new book offers a look into human experiences that seldom fit within those margins. Reclaiming Our Stories: Narratives of Identity, Resilience, and Empowerment is the unexpected result of a community writing workshop in a San Diego neighborhood which, according to one essay, is often called, “ghetto, rough, and dangerous.” The text, which includes nineteen personal narratives from current residents of Southeast San Diego, offers insight from a community for which issues of race, class, immigration, human trafficking, addiction, biased laws, and police brutality represent many intimate struggles that have served to shape these people into the dedicated community members they are today.
In the book’s foreword, activist, author, and lecturer Elbert “Big Man” Howard, a founding member of the Black Panther Party writes, “This collection is a monumental achievement…It will lay the inspirational groundwork for exceptional works by so many unheard voices.” The voices in this book are black, white, Hispanic, Arab, and other. They are both devastated and hopeful. The essays grab readers with catching titles like, “Terrorist?,” “My Devil,” “The Night my Mother was Murdered,” and “Welcome to Blessed Like Dat’s Winter Wonderland.”
In an essay by Maria Sandoval called “Robbed,” the author recounts losing several of her brothers to incarceration for crimes as mild as throwing a toy at a friend. “Around that time,” she writes, “the police seemed to routinely raid homes in my area…Anyone who fit the description of a gang member would get their picture taken and anyone with an outstanding warrant would get arrested.” And later, “I never knew how to talk to them about what they actually went through while incarcerated, nor did they know how to talk to me about my life without them.”
These stories voice the reality of the social problems of our time in a way that news stories featuring crime statistics and videos of disrupted rallies cannot. The stories are gritty. They are real. And they are written by a courageous community of motivated individuals.
Reclaiming Our Stories: Narratives of Identity, Resilience, and Empowerment
Editors: Mona Alsoraimi-Espiritu, Roberta Alexander, and Manuel Paul Lopez
Publisher: San Diego City Works Press
Dimensions: 5.5” x 8.5”
Year Published: 2016