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What God Is Honored Here?

Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss by and for Native Women and Women of Color

2019

Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang, Editors

What God Is Honored Here?

Native women and women of color poignantly share their pain, revelations, and hope after experiencing the traumas of miscarriage and infant loss

What God Is Honored Here? is a literary collection of voices of Indigenous women and women of color who have undergone miscarriage and infant loss, experiences that disproportionately affect women who have often been cast toward the margins in the U.S. Powerfully and with brutal honesty, they write about what it means to reclaim life in the face of death.

Pregnancy loss is a most enigmatic human sorrow, unique to every woman who suffers it. These stories of resilience, grief, and restoration are essential, for to understand is to heal.

Louise Erdrich

What God Is Honored Here? is the first book of its kind—and urgently necessary. This is a literary collection of voices of Indigenous women and women of color who have undergone miscarriage and infant loss, experiences that disproportionately affect women who have often been cast toward the margins in the United States of America. 

From the story of dashed cultural expectations in an interracial marriage to poems that speak of loss across generations, from harrowing accounts of misdiagnoses, ectopic pregnancies, and late-term stillbirths to the poignant chronicles of miscarriages and mysterious infant deaths, What God Is Honored Here? brings women together to speak to one another about the traumas and tragedies of womanhood. In its heartbreaking beauty, this book offers an integral perspective on how culture and religion, spirit and body, unite in the reproductive lives of women of color and Indigenous women as they bear witness to loss, search for what is not there, and claim for themselves and others their fundamental humanity. Powerfully and with brutal honesty, they write about what it means to reclaim life in the face of death.

Editors Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang acknowledge “who we had been could not have prepared us for who we would become in the wake of these words,” yet the writings collected here offer insight, comfort, and, finally, hope for all those who, like the women gathered here, have found grief a lonely place.

Contributors: Jennifer Baker, Michelle Borok, Lucille Clifton, Sidney Clifton, Taiyon J. Coleman, Arfah Daud, Rona Fernandez, Sarah Agaton Howes, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Soniah Kamal, Diana Le-Cabrera, Janet Lee-Ortiz, Maria Elena Mahler, Chue Moua, Jami Nakamura Lin, Jen Palmares Meadows, Dania Rajendra, Marcie Rendon, Seema Reza, 신 선 영 Sun Yung Shin, Kari Smalkoski, Catherine R. Squires, Elsa Valmidiano.
What God Is Honored Here?

Shannon Gibney is a writer, educator, activist, and the author of See No Color, a young adult novel that won the Minnesota Book Award in Young People’s Literature. She is faculty in English at Minneapolis College, where she teaches writing. She has been a Bush Artist and McKnight Writing Fellow. Her critically acclaimed novel Dream Country follows more than five generations of an African-descended family as they crisscross the Atlantic, both voluntarily and involuntarily.

Kao Kalia Yang is author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, winner of two Minnesota Book Awards and a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Asian Literary Award in Nonfiction. Her second book, The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father, won a Minnesota Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the PEN USA Award in Nonfiction, and the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize.

What God Is Honored Here?

Pregnancy loss is a most enigmatic human sorrow, unique to every woman who suffers it. These stories of resilience, grief, and restoration are essential, for to understand is to heal.

Louise Erdrich

What God is Honored Here? is the hardest and most important book I've read about parenting, loss, and imagination. It's also the most frightening book in my world, but not because it is horrific: it is about the terrifying possibilities of love.

Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

Together these writers have created a sacred space, a temple, in which the unspeakable can be shared in a way that honors their losses and the women they are, women who endured, who fought, who lost, who grieve . . . and the individual and collective healing that can come from allowing survivors to remember. A book of astounding grace and strength.

Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do

These writers have pierced the silence that too often surrounds miscarriage and infant loss, crafting hallowed stories from thoughtful, honest prose. As readers we are invited to witness the heart-mending love of mothers as they share memories of their lost babies, and in the telling offer solace in community.

Diane Wilson, author of Spirit Car and Beloved Child

Premised on how Native women and women of color writers write about pregnancy and loss, this collection unspools from the start as a wrenching look at grief, refracted through the prism of race, religion, and class in the context of war, migration, and displacement. A unique contribution to the writings of women of color, this anthology brings together a range of women’s literary voices who write against the idea that grieving must be experienced as a solitary act. It reminds us of our resolute ties to one another and asks us to honor our experiences of joy and grief, love and pain, with story, song, and narrative.

Lan Duong, coeditor of Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora

Pregnancy loss experienced by Native women and women of color is both alarmingly common and shamefully devalued—and even criminalized—in America today. The stories these women tell in What God Is Honored Here? offer heartbreaking insights into their pain while affirming the unbreakable bonds between them and their children. With this anthology, Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang illuminate an important yet often overlooked aspect of reproductive health, lives, and justice.

Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body

To remember is an act of will and courage, an affirmation of hope and a dreamed-for life. These stories and poems, heart-rending and often traumatic, reveal the resilience that transcends the pain of loss. What God Is Honored Here? consecrates personal and collective sacrifice and contributes to the validation that is essential to adapt to and heal from significant loss.

Susan Gibney, founder, University of Michigan NICU Hospitals Bereavement Program and Walk to Remember, MS, LLP, RN

What God Is Honored Here?

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Reclaiming Life

Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang

the lost baby poem

Lucille Clifton

Then and Then

Sidney Clifton

Lessons from Dying

Sarah Agaton Howes

April is the Cruelest Month

Michelle Borok

Not Everything is a Patch of Wildflowers

Maria Elena Mahler

Tilted Uterus: When Jesus is Your Baby Daddy

Taiyon J. Coleman

The Pursuit of Happiness

Jennifer N. Baker

Untranslation

Kari Smalkoski

Flunking Math

Arfah Daud

Returning to Morro Bay

Arfah Daud

Avenue of Poplars in Autumn

Arfah Daud

Sianneh: The Trip Was Good

Shannon Gibney

Binding Signs

Dania Rajendra

Massimo’s Legacy

Diana Le-Cabrera

The Ritual

Rona Fernandez

The Night Parade

Jami Nakamura Lin

Kamali’s Still Birth

Janet Lee-Ortiz

Three Marias

Jen Palmares Meadows

Susannah Wheatley Tends to the Child (Re)Named Phillis, Who is Suffering from Asthma

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

The Face of Miscarriage

Soniah Kamal

A Dream Deferred

Marcie Rendon

Pity

Seema Reza

Calendar of the Unexpected?

Catherine R. Squires

Blighted

Elsa Valmidiano

In the Month of August

Kao Kalia Yang

Either Side

Chue Moua, with Kao Kalia Yang

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Miscarriage

Sun Yung Shin

Contributors

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About E-books

Available in October 2019