It is often that books, readers, authors remind us to keep an open mind when it comes to literature and the importance of constantly expanding our reading horizon. I am not an exception to this, and I consciously try to read outside of my comfort zone. I do not read anthologies often – I can’t remember the last time I read one – but this is about to change all thanks to We Are Not Shadows. It was a revelatory read that once again proved that we should go and read all kinds of genres, all kinds of books. We Are Not Shadows is the first project of brand-new publisher Folkway Press. It features 34 female authors, and it was a great reminder to me, and hopefully to many other readers, that anthologies are a real joy to read and explore.
The book is split into three parts featuring fiction, poetry, and essays. All three parts, albeit different, focus on similar issues: being a woman, belonging, sexuality, disability, trauma – many a topic that we do not usually talk about. The first part is the fiction writing which consists of sharp short stories portraying a variety of situations and ordeals. From a woman gathering courage to tell off a man for manspreading on the subway to visiting a memory of childhood spent on two continents, these short stories, albeit fictional, really shine a light on the many experiences of the everyday woman showing us a truth that many of us experience on daily basis.
The poetry section consists of 22 poems that once again explore womanhood, disability, trauma and sexuality. Poetry can be intimidating to a lot of readers, including myself, but this collection of poems was a real joy to read. Yes, the subject matter is challenging and tough to read at times, but it is also very intimate; it really felt like talking to a friend and simply listening to their thoughts and feelings which are expressed in beautiful lines and stanzas.
The part of We Are Not Shadows, which was my personal favourite, focuses on personal essays. The essays were varied and covered a range of issues, but they truly captured the voice of these female writers. Some were difficult to read, but I believe that we should all do so if we are to start talking openly about so many topics that still seem taboo, even between women. Miscarriage, finding your sexuality, living in two places and not really fitting in either – all of these subject matters can be hard to discuss but they are part of life, part of being a woman and I admire these essays and the bravery of the writers behind them. The essays were raw and powerful, and the words and experiences stayed with me after I had closed the pages of the book.
We Are Not Shadows really does what it sets out to do. It is an anthology that gives voice to women from all over the world, women with different life experiences whose words we have the privilege to read all thanks to this anthology. It is a revelatory book that really does not shy away from openly discussing difficult topics which are important – we should learn to not be ashamed of hard truths and experiences, not to find them shameful. Instead, we should learn to read them, to listen to them and to learn from them. For way too long many experiences have been silenced and it is high time this changed, and it is books like We Are Not Shadows that will make it happen. Go and read it.
We Are Not Shadows is available now, published by Folkways Press