Featuring Sara Marchant
Sara Marchant received her master of fine arts in creative writing and writing for the performing arts from the University of California, Riverside/Palm Desert and her bachelor of arts in history from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has been published on the Manifest-Station, Every Writer’s Resource and the blog Excuse Me, I’m Writing. She lives with her husband in the high desert of Southern California.
We had a chance to interview author Sara Marchant, whose essay "Proof of Blood" appears in All the Women in My Family Sing. This is what we learned...
What inspired you to write your essay for this anthology?
‘Proof of Blood’ is a piece from my memoir of essays, Proof of Loss. The memoir in total is about loss, but in order to understand what one has lost, one has to acknowledge one’s background. Identity is layered like a bittersweet cake.
What is one of the most memorable challenges you have experienced as a woman of color in the 21st century?
I present as white. People assume I am white, and frequently feel ‘safe’ to share beliefs that I don’t imagine they would normally share with a person of Mexican and Jewish heritage. Well, nowadays people feel validated to share all kinds of abhorrent views—I am still getting accustomed to the post-2016 election world we live in.
But it used to be that people would say things like, “because we are white, or gringos (norteamericanos), or Christians”…and I would stop them. I’d correct their perception of me. Explain my origin story. Maybe we’d have an interesting conversation about appearances and identity and culture, but more often than not, things just got awkward.
I’ve felt awkward for most of my life. It isn’t always a bad thing, maybe it helps develop a writer’s observation skills? I’ve never felt more Jewish than when I was living in Mexico, and I never felt more Mexican than when attending an Orthodox shul. The day I feel like I fit in is probably the day I’ll be dead. Or maybe not, I mean, I’ll be dead.
Give an example of women’s roles in social justice movement.
Here is the part where I shamelessly self-promote! In November of 2016, after I came out of my shock, (and my birthday is November 11—the lunatic grifter in office is the worst birthday present ever, by the way) I felt the need to do something, anything, for social justice. I am not a marcher, because I live in the rural no-where and I panic in crowds and I am the fulltime caregiver for my elderly mother. I couldn’t donate once a month to the ACLU or SPLC or Emily’s List because I am adjunct faculty and we all know what that means (dirt poor without benefits is what it means) so after I donated to those charities that one time, I felt powerless.
My friend Kit-Bacon Gressitt, with whom I went to grad school, has a background in activism and social justice work, so I called her and said, “What do we do now?” And she said, “Wanna start a resistance themed literary magazine?” So we did.
Writers Resist is a platform we’ve created to help people bear witness to the times we live in. We unapologetically give preference to women, especially WOC, POC, and the LGBTQ community. If you are writing resistance themed work, prose or poetry, we want to read it!
What have your experiences been in leadership as a woman of color?
When I was growing up there was no ‘natural leader’ designation. Girls who took charge and didn’t put up with any nonsense—from anyone—were called “bossy.” And boy howdy was I called bossy.
As a young woman, working at the San Diego Natural History Museum, I was told by another woman that I was “very aggressive.” The Human Resources manager, who happened to be a woman of color, corrected her very quietly, but with steel; “I believe you mean ‘assertive.’” That HR lady was my hero after that. Well, she still is…wherever she might be in the world.
Aside from writing, I prefer to work in collaboration. I think that’s when humans achieve their greatest efforts, but I also like to direct the effort. And I’m not going to apologize for being bossy. I mean, being a natural leader!
What do you most hope readers will take away from reading this book?
Reading about other people is a lesson in empathy. Putting yourself in another’s experience, life, mind, body, even if only for a few pages, does wonders for our fragile, self-absorbed selves. I always tell my students reading will make them better people—and we all should strive to be better people.
We’ve only got the one life (at least, I’m hoping it’s just the one because frankly I’m exhausted) but reading about others’ lives is the closest I get to seeing through their eyes. I’m excited to read the other essays in the book, I can hardly wait!