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Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha launches latest works in Ottawa

Author discusses her new memoir and latest book of poetry

Lambda Literary Award–winning author Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Credit: Heidi Restrepo-Rhodes

Lambda Literary Award–winning author Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha will soon hold the Ottawa launch for her two latest works, Bodymap and Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home. The Toronto-based writer, performer and educator identifies as queer, disabled and a woman of colour. She writes about topics such as disability, surviving abuse and being a femme of colour.

She is the author of Love Cake (for which she won the Lambda for Lesbian Poetry in 2012) and Consensual Genocide, and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities. Her writing has been published in several anthologies. She is currently co-director of Mangos With Chili, a touring cabaret for queer and trans people of colour.

Daily Xtra caught up with the author for a quick chat about her upcoming launch.

Daily Xtra: Your memoir Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home just came out and you’re about to have your Ottawa launch. Can you tell us a bit about the book?

Dirty River is the memoir I’ve been working on for a decade. It’s the story of me running away from the US to Toronto in 1997 — away from an abusive family and toward burgeoning queer punk-of-colour, anti-colonial feminist-of-colour and Sri Lankan/radical South Asian communities. I’ve been calling it a choose-your-own-adventure queer brown disabled femme’s abuse survivor memoir. I wanted to write a story that is really under-told, and needed to be told — one queer brown femme surviving abuse in real life story. As I say in the opening preface, “This book isn’t The Courage to Heal, and it isn’t Push.” I wanted to capture all the crazy amazing ways we heal and decolonize ourselves and make diasporic community, through homemade queer Diwalis and fucked-up, transformative relationships. Toronto’s QTPOC [queer and trans people of colour] community in the late 1990s was so vibrant, with things like the queer radical South Asian festival Desh Pardesh and queer women-of-colour publisher Sister Vision Press doing things no one else was doing. I wanted to capture that time.

You’re also launching your poetry collection, Bodymap, at the same event. Please tell me a bit about that.

Bodymap is my third book of poetry, and my first since I won the Lambda Award in 2012. It contains a lot of poems coming out of my work with the disability justice movement, which is a movement [focused on] queer and/or people-of-colour with disabilities, which I first came in contact with through working with the performance collective Sins Invalid. It’s about mapping the body’s stories — queer-of-colour love, sex and disaster, long-term abuse survival and transformative justice, and QTPOC disabled culture.

Why should people come to the launch?

Because it’ll be some kind of queer brown femme crip literary utopia for one night only.