Brash. Brazen. Bossy. Hussy.
I just finished We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire by Joy McCullough and it is fiercely beautiful and heartbreaking. Em is the biggest champion and loudest voice when it comes to defending her sister, Nor, a victim of rape by the campus big shot. Just when it seems as if they’ve made progress with a guilty verdict, the judge hands down a hand slap of a sentence to the monster that assaulted Nor. Another kick in the face, not only to Nor but to all the women who’ve been victims and hoped to see justice done in the never-ending violence and forbearance of the rape culture.
Full of disappointment and disgust, Em quits writing for the school newspaper and advocating for other victims and then she reconnects with Jess. Jess introduces Em to the legend of Marguerite de Bressieux, a 15th century French woman who is known for avenging rape victims. Em begins writing poetry about Marguerite to which Jess illustrates and so begins a sort of dual narrative with parts written in free verse/prose.
I think this is a book for the times and not meant to be a feel-good book but to be more of an eye-opener to what has become accepted. It’s a book about family and friends, about supporting each other, about every negative feeling we have that we don’t know what to do with and finding a way to cope with these feelings through positive interactions and fighting the system that would hold you down.
I’ll probably go back and reread this again at some point because this is the type of book that I know I’ll find new meanings in, every time I read it.