As Martin told you in this week's Whatcha Reading column, tonight is the launch party for the Shout Your Abortion anthology at the Neptune Theater (get your tickets here.) We talked with SYA founder Amelia Bonow about the creation of the anthology and why — even though it's cold and dark and generally Northwest wintry outside — tonight's event is worth your time and attention.
Why was it important for you to make a SYA book? Why not a podcast or a documentary for your first major media document?
This book is our first attempt at a creating a snapshot of the movement, and in some ways, that felt impossible. One of the main things that SYA wants to communicate is that there is no single abortion narrative. Making a book that communicates that is sort of a catch twenty-two because no matter what, you’re going to select and edit a finite number of stories and your curation will create an arc of some kind whether you want to or not.
However, after the 2016 election I felt really strongly that we needed a practical, tangible tool that could communicate what SYA is doing and why, and help people find their way into the movement. In some ways, books are more accessible than the vast majority of mediums. They are infinitely sharable, they are un-hackable, they are something which people can encounter by accident. On that point, another reason I wanted to make this book is that it’s intended to be a tool for abortion clinics. We got a grant from Abortion Conversation Projects and we will be sending this book to hundreds of clinics for their waiting and recovery rooms, so thousands of people will flip through this book before or after they have their abortions. I honestly believe that simply encountering some positive representation in that moment will allow many people to have a profoundly healthier abortion experience. It’s a really beautiful thing to think that this book could disrupt the expectation of silence and shame for someone before it has a chance to get totally ingrained.
While I know you and Emily Nokes have worked on zines together, I believe this is your first book project, correct. Can you talk about the process of making the book, and what you learned while putting it together?
It was really special to make this book with Emily, because she one of my best friends and she also happens to be one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. She also lives next door to me, which means we could literally air drop gigantic files back and forth without wearing pants.
Emily and I worked together in a way that was everything I love about women: it was a collaborative process with a lot of mutual trust and zero ego. It was very intuitive and symbiotic and wavy and we factored in one another’s menstrual cycles into our work plan and I am not joking. Why wouldn’t we? Also, making a book is wildly, unfathomably stressful, especially when you are making an abortion book that has upwards of 100 contributors. The fact that we were able to get through such a grueling process and feel totally supported and respected by each other is an affirmation of everything this book is about! Women are the only people who have ever held me down like that. I guess if anything, making this book confirmed my feeling that I really don’t want to work with cis men anymore.
It's a very interesting format — magazine-y in some places, a literary anthology in other places. Did you have any books that you looked to as inspiration for the anthology?
Emily and I both spent a lot of time thumbing through books and found inspiration here and there but I don’t think we really found anything like the book we wanted to make—I feel pretty confident saying that nothing like this has ever existed before.
Seattleites in December are prone to heading home in the pitch dark after work, putting on some comfy sweatpants, and crawling inside their couches for some hibernation. What's your pitch to someone who wants to fight that nesting urge and come out to the show tonight?
You can wear leggings to the Neptune! Wear your couch! Winter insularity is totally reasonable because it’s really hard to know if something is going to be worth it. Like, is this band going to be as good as my couch? In this particular case, I am offering you a 1,000,000% guarantee that what will transpire at the Neptune tonight will make you feel alive and free. And we all need to feel that way as much as we possibly can these days.