This is a book I could not put away once I started reading it. Michelle Ayon Navajas collaborates with a social cause, and highlights unspoken pains of women with deftness in verbal expression.
Almost every pain has been discussed – victim-blaming, incest, marital rape, infidelity, being used as currency in bets, physical, mental and emotional abuse.
One of her characters realizes she is not to be blamed, only after joining a group of abuse victims. The stories are all of real women, who braved the torture and live to talk about it.
Here are some glimpses into the pages of the book “After Rain Skies”. I felt like a voyeur peeping into the secret chambers of a woman’s mind or her handbag.
And so, with all her remaining strength she bravely said, “No, there is no way that will happen.” She added, “I don’t care if you will rape me over a million times, I don’t care if you will even keep me your hostage, but I will never let you see me surrender myself to you. There is no way I will agree to marry you”.
Her “no” meant a lifetime of freedom. Her “no” meant a lifetime of self-worth
you lost your voice in the roaring thunder of his growing ego as you lost your consciousness under his vicious hands.
You see, you can’t escape a storm inside your mind. Out there, in the real world, you can get in a car and drive as fast as you can, and get as far away from it as you can, before the first thunderclap even hits. But in your head? The ghosts that haunt you there? You can’t touch it. No matter how much you hurt, there’s nowhere to go.
It’s slowly disappearing—a world where girls can only be wives if they are less than what their husbands are. It’s slowly disappearing but it’s mostly still here.
The thing about not giving back the pain you received, though, was, if you didn’t have a place to put it, you just carried it around with you.
When men get married, they call it settling down. Like something soft, something restful. You did not settle down when you married. You got married, and you stepped up.
She kept her silence for so long. And yes, for some reason and probably by the grace of God, her silence helped her forget and eventually move on. Now, years later, she chose to speak up. And, why now? Because she has found her peace now, and in her peace, she can better narrate her story and empower young women.
Michelle Ayon Navajas answered a few questions in a chat, and her answers are eye-openers. Abuse is not restricted to any one geography. Most of us in Asia sees Western women as liberated, but there are many who would have different stories to tell.
I’ve been reading your work for some time, and the easy flow of appropriate words to describe complex situations amazes me. It suddenly makes an unspeakable act easy to comprehend and accept. It makes the way forward easier.
Where does it all come from? Is it from a culture, or happenings around you, or interactions with brave women?
I use the “first person” point of view in most of my poetry and prose, because this style of narrative brings about closeness in the reader-writer-character relationship especially when talking about the contemporary women who are challenging the regressive social norms and overcoming all obstacles to achieve their dreams. The use of simple language also aids for better understanding and grasp of ideas even for readers who are not poetry or literary enthusiasts. We have achieved so much for which we should be both grateful and proud, but there remains a lot to be achieved. I think the spirit of feminism as I understand is very simple. More than focusing on the term, I would like to stress that every woman deserves a life of dignity and the ability to make her own choices. Over and over again I always emphasize on women’s education, their financial independence, the need to give them career-oriented training, and women coming forward to help other women grow. I am also against women who feel threatened by other women’s courage to break out of their traditional roles. Apart from organizational resistance by women, education, job training, and financial independence, there is also a need for the change of attitude of general people, especially where women are not treated as equals. This (change of attitude) is a larger and more complicated problem, which is to change the mindset that a strong woman is negative. A strong woman who is earning and taking up space in the outside world is a great asset to her family and community. A strong woman is not just a woman who makes use of life’s opportunities but also manages to stand strong when things fall apart.
How difficult was the writing process? What were the emotions you had to fight, and controls you had to exercise?