Trigger Warning - rape discussions, bullying, trauma discussion, gore
We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire is an incredibly well written story within a story. It’s half first person narrative, and half prose. This first person part of the story follows Em Morales before and after her older sister’s rape and the following trial. You see that her family is supportive and close, sort of living in a happy lyrical life bubble, but after her sister’s attack things change. Of course they change. We follow Em and see from her POV how rape affects someone and the people around them as well. How a conviction can feel hopeful and then a sentencing becomes a let down. How speaking out against a rapist truly affects the lives of a victim/survivor, even though they’ve done nothing wrong. You’re doing what you feel is right, but then it’s like some of the world turns against you. The victim blaming, the shaming, and just the ugly vitriol that comes out against the victim/survivor with the rape culture in this country. It was honestly heartbreaking to read all that Nor and her family went through post trial, and it’s even more upsetting because it’s a reality for many victims/survivors. Such a helpless feeling that I think this author portrayed well in this book.
It was interesting reading all of these things from Em’s POV, because even though she isn’t the victim per say she wants to fight for her sister and protect her. She has a line where after the rapist is given a non-sentence where she says she wishes she knew how to wield a sword, because she’s angry and enraged. She wants to fight for her sister. In this story she learns how to use her “sword” and how not to. That being said, it really did rub me the wrong way at times how Em made things about herself, took actions without deeper thought on the consequences, and thought of Nor and others after. I understand that it’s sort of a realistic way a teenager or anyone may think, but it did frustrate me.
The prose parts of this are the story of Marguerite de Bressieux, who is legendary as an avenging knight for rape victims. I sort of loved how Em got out her rage at the unsatisfactory sentencing of the rape trial out with her pen, and through the power of another woman’s revenge after her, her family’s, and other women’s rapes. It’s like she felt the empowerment through that story and I thought that it was powerful as a reader. Do I feel she became a bit lost in it, yes, but I also understand that when you feel lost in the real world sometimes getting lost in fiction or other healthy ways is a nice escape and can heal you some.
All in all I thought this was a good read. I think it’s powerful, and could be a good conversation starter.