Meet US Author Diane DeBella. She’s is our Site Sponsor through early June 2014. Her book “I Am Subject” is highly relevant to each of us as women, and as women writers. It is about being subject of our own lives, not objects, not adjuncts to the lives of others. Stay a while. Linger here and find out who Diane DeBella is. Why did she write a book called “I Am Subject“? What is in it for you? Join us as we launch an #iamsubject project inviting women writers (and women who write) to write your own #iamsubject story on your own blog (or a friend’s) and be considered for inclusion in a new #iamsubject anthology that we will be publishing jointly with Diane (if we have fifty participants.) – Anora McGaha and Barbara Bos, WWWB
In March 2014, I had the tremendous good fortune to meet Gloria Steinem at an event in Denver. She was gracious enough to sign my copy of her book Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem. In the few moments I spoke with her, I struggled to express the impact her book had on me when I first read it years ago.
Her discussion of core self-esteem versus situational self-esteem and internal versus external barriers in the lives of women ignited the very first flicker of awakening that I experienced on what was to become a painful, lengthy, and ultimately rewarding excavation of my past—a journey that would help heal my wounds and would also completely shift the focus of my life’s work.
She grew thoughtful as she listened, as if she were remembering exactly where she was when she put pen to paper to write the book. Then she looked at me and said, “You know, we write what we need to learn, don’t we?”
Yes, we do. When people ask me why I wrote I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves, my first answer is that I had to write it. It really wasn’t a choice.
It was a work that would not let me go, no matter how many times over the course of 15 years I tried to walk away from it. I wrote the book I had to write—for me, for the women who came before me, and for the girls yet to come.
I tell the stories of other women writers’ lives because through the discovery of their stories, I came to a better understanding of my own. Mary Wollstonecraft was a brilliant self-taught scholar, philosopher, and writer, but it was her life story that I could identify with—an alcoholic father, broken mother, and a resultant lack of self-esteem that created a void she could never completely fill.
Kate Chopin was a woman generations ahead of her time. Left a widow with six children under the age of eleven, and battling significant debt, she turned to writing at age 36 in order to make her own way in the world and provide for her children.
Through fiction, she found the strength to write female characters for whom the traditional role of wife and mother had left them with so little sense of self that sometimes death was the only way out. She also wrote of women like herself, who not only stepped out of the confining box of traditional wife and mother, but splintered the box into tiny, insignificant pieces, instead embracing passion and pain, love and lust, and defining their own way of being in the world.
Adrienne Rich was also revolutionary in both her life and her work, leaving a marriage and three children, embracing life with a same-sex partner, and writing her own raw truth about her less than idyllic experience with motherhood.
These women and all the others I include in I Am Subject helped me examine my own life story and commit it to paper, interwoven with their life stories in a collective tapestry of memoir that provides countless teachable moments.
In fact, I have seen firsthand how sharing our stories can help other women to develop a better understanding and appreciation of where they have come from, and to clearly define a more genuine path as they move forward—no matter what life stage they are experiencing. I include my own students’ reflections in this work because once I began to pay it forward and share and teach women’s truths to the young women in my classroom, the magic truly began to unfold.
Learning other women’s truths in a safe space and place has allowed these young women to move forward along their paths with their eyes wide open. Many of them are at first shocked that other women share their truths so openly: “How in the world can these women invite complete strangers into their lives without being afraid and ashamed of the repercussions their writing might create?”
Yet after significant reflection, they can often answer this question themselves, as they realize that these writers, myself included, are sharing their stories so that other women can know they are not alone.
Women are conditioned to retreat deep within themselves to seek comfort, when in fact they would benefit by turning to the words of other women for support and guidance. Women deserve to be the authors of their own stories; if they choose to veer off the path they are on and forge a new, more genuine one, they can then rewrite their lives.
The women who came before me found the strength to share their own pain, and I have learned from their life lessons. I am revealing my pain so that others can learn from me. My goal is to recognize the women who came before me, those I am surrounded by right now, and the girls I see every day—the teenagers who think it’s more important to be an object than it is to be subject of their own lives. My own daughter is just beginning to question her abilities and her self-worth, and I want my story to help her navigate whatever lies ahead. That’s what self-disclosure is about.
So yes, Gloria. We do indeed write what we need to learn. That’s what this work is all about.
Diane DeBella has spent twenty years examining women writers, women’s history and feminist issues. She currently teaches at the University of Colorado in Boulder and has work published in numerous journals, including California Quarterly, Vermont Literary Review and Montpelier.
Diane is the author of a recently released memoir, I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves. She is the recipient of the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award.
Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane offers workshops and presentations on issues that affect girls and women of all ages and during all life stages, providing a safe space to increase understanding and awareness, as well as develop a stronger system of support and community.
To learn more, visit www.iamsubject.com
Follow Diane on twitter @DianeDeBella