We Are Not Shadows

by | Interview

Folkways Press is a newly founded independent publishing company dedicated to the unconventional, the extraordinary, and the voices of those who’ve been pushed to the margins for far too long. Their most recent book is an anthology of stories about women, aiming to open up the discourse about female experiences.

Please may you explain to our readers what your anthology “We are Not Shadows” is?

We Are Not Shadows is a feminist anthology containing stories, poems, and essays from women writers around the globe concerning issues such as race, gender, sexuality, trauma, adversity, disability, and much more.

What inspired you to create that collection, and was a team effort to bring this into a reality?

When thinking about what kind of book I wanted to publish as the first publication from Folkways Press, I thought an anthology would be the perfect route to go. As I started listing out possible themes, a conversation with a friend of mine came to mind. I remembered her saying once that she wished there were more anthologies featuring women writers over the age of 40. While she connected with some stories she was reading, she wished there were more from another woman her age, too. Many anthologies feature writers under 40, or even 30, which is wonderful, but I wanted to create something that gave a platform to all women, no matter their age or background. That being said, I recognize that there are many writers who often go overlooked, especially from marginalized communities, so I made it a point to be mindful in the stories and authors I selected from the submissions I received.

Compiling the anthology was definitely a team effort. I run Folkways Press on my own, but I received help from several friends and colleagues. I like to call my friend Alice Piotrowska my “official, unofficial” business partner. She’s been such a great help from helping me during the submission process, design of the cover, publishing plans, and more. I’d be lost without her help and the help of others. I’m beyond grateful to those I’ve met in the industry who are willing to help and the friends who allow me to send anxious texts regarding this project.

On Kickstarter, it states that this book seeks to address a range of topics that are “timely”. Do you think that issues regarding women and their treatment in society are universal throughout not just space but also time, and so will still be important in thousands of years to come?

We say that our range of topics in the anthology are “timely”, but I’d say issues regarding women and their treatment in society will always be universal. If you look through history books or even in the here-and-now, you’ll find stories of women enduring injustices, hardships, unfair treatment, and more. Until society as a whole is willing to remove centuries of ingrained harmful behaviors toward women, constructive change will still move at a glacial pace. However, I do have hope that things will change for the better as we move forward and that the stories we’re telling now will remain as a testament to how far we’ve come.

What emotions are you expecting your readers to be hit with when they pick up this anthology? Is it intended to raise awareness, to encourage empathy, or other things?

Because we cover such a wide-range of topics, I’m expecting readers to maybe be on a rollercoaster of emotions. So many women stay silent about their experiences, but I want this book to be a megaphone for each writer and a source of empowerment for readers. I want every woman who reads this to walk away with the courage to speak up about their own stories, and, like the title suggests, to step out of the shadows and into the light. I’d also like this to be a book that creates empathy in others, especially considering what’s happening around us. More and more conversations about race, gender, sexuality, sexual trauma, and more keep coming to light, as they should. We Are Not Shadows is an intimate conversation about those issues, among others, that readers can resonate with even if they haven’t gone through the same experiences. I think they’ll walk away having a better understanding of what others are going through or, most importantly, walk away knowing they’re not alone.

Please may you explain one of the authors involved and a bit about their work, as a little insight into the anthology?

It’s so difficult to pick just one writer to speak about as they’re all incredible. One story that has been on my mind as of late is Magdalena’s Social Position Essay by Algae. Algae, who is a writer from Texas, explores the themes of culture and identity in this short story. The story is a first person essay by a college student named Magdalena who works through how she views her own identity through the lense of her Mexican American culture. From class to generational status to sexuality, Magdalena works through how she views herself and the difficulties she’s faced along the way, both from within her community and outside of it. While the essay might be in short story form, it speaks powerful truths. I also like the creative way in which it is written. The story is presented as a paper would be with the track changes turned on in Microsoft Word, with many of Magdalena’s true thoughts crossed out, symbolizing that, even in her essay, there are parts of her that she feels like she can’t include as she seeks to speak about her identity – something I think many struggle with.

There were two quotes that particularly stood out to me because of their poingnancy and I wanted to include them below:

“There were people all throughout my country who believed that my ethnic group was the cause of their problems; Latinos were grouped together to mean ‘Mexicans’, seen through a xenophobic lens as the ‘other’, and marked as a scapegoat for social tensions; my ethnicity became a title I could no longer escape. Over the years my father’s jokes about having to pronounce my last name in a gringo accent in college grew more serious.”

“Growing up, I struggled with my sexuality given the toxic heteronormativity of Chicano culture and my family’s rigid religious views. It was something I was never comfortable with; the media turned my Latina identity into a sexual icon – but something only men were to enjoy. And this icon was something I was not comfortable in playing into nor the fantasy of turning straight if I found the right guy. It wasn’t until recent years at I was able to be surrounded myself with my girlfriend and a small group of friends that were accepting of my sexuality; within this community I was able to express myself without fear of judgement and embrace my identity as a queer Chicana.”

Finally, how can people help bring this anthology to life through Kickstarter?

Being a newly founded small press and attempting to launch a book during a pandemic has been incredibly difficult. I know many people, businesses, and industries are struggling right now, and we have seen the impact in our Kickstarter campaign. I set our goal at $8,000 because that will cover printing and shipping expenses, fair author payment, and additional expenses, such as freelance fees and campaign rewards. Because we know many are struggling, we included a pledge amount of $1 so that anyone can be involved in the process of bringing this book to print. No matter what the pledge amount is, we appreciate any support we can get. Even if someone can’t pledge a monetary amount, sharing the word about our Kickstarter with others helps a great deal, too. That could be through social media, blog posts, or interviews like this one. I’m dedicated to the authors in this anthology and any way we can promote them and their work is something I appreciate.

The anthology is currently asking for donations on Kickstarter, so that the authors included can be paid, so that the anthology can be printed and distributed, and so that Folkways Press can hold events for the launch of this exciting new book. Have a look on how to help out here.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash.

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