One of the most interesting non-fiction titles I have come across recently is the book I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales of a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing by Kyria Abrahams.
As you can probably tell from the title, Kyria Abrahams grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness. She was taught to believe that her and everyone she knew was in danger of dying in an apocalypse at any time so she grew up thinking that nothing really mattered. Abrahams attended a public school and found it difficult as she was not allowed to participate in holiday celebrations with her classmates. Smurfs were forbidden so she would get merchandise of knock-off characters called the Snorks and convince herself that they were a lot cooler. There is a lot of humour in this memoir with an undercurrent of deep emotional pain. Abrahams found it difficult to adhere to such strict rules and ended up in an unhappy marriage to escape her grey, oppressive home life. She suffered with OCD, turned to self-harm and alcoholism, eventually leading to her suicide attempt. She finally decided that she would have an affair to get purposefully “disfellowshipped” from the Jehovah’s Witness community. Even after she left the community she found it difficult to find her place in the world as she had not been given simple skills to operate in a world outside of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She explains that for most of her life, she was led to believe that “leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be like leaving the haunted cabin in the woods to ‘go check on that strange noise.’ Never again would a disfellowshipped person find caring friends or experience true love, as these things did not exist in Satan’s world.”
Abrahams , however, did manage to form relationships outside of her community. She became friends with a group of slam poets who did indeed offer her friendship, acceptance, and love as well as a place to stay and money to help her on her feet. Today she is a comedian and has performed sketch comedy and slam poetry. She ended up competing in the finals of a national slam poetry competition. She spent time at poetry readings in bookstore basements where “hippies sat cross-legged on milk crates and teenage goths gave each other backrubs.” She’d never interacted much with people so different from the people she grew up with and found that she wanted to belong. I would be interested to find out more about her process of creating a new life for herself, as this part of her life is only touched on in the last few chapters of the book.
Reading this book, you might find yourself interested in getting involved in the world of slam poetry. Here are a few titles the library carries that can help explain what it’s all about and how you can get started:
Stage A Poetry Slam: Creating Performance Poetry Events: Inside tips, Backstage Advice, and Lots of Examples by Mark Kelly Smith. Mark Kelly Smith is known as “the father of slam poetry itself.”
Take the Mic: The Art of Performance Poetry, Slam, and the Spoken Word, another title by Mark Kelly Smith.
Poetry Slam : The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry ed. By Gary Mex Glazner. This book has tips and examples of slam poetry as well as a history of slam poetry.
The Spoken Word Revolution (slam, hip hop & the poetry of a new generation) ed. by Mark Eleveld. This title actually comes with a CD so you can listen to examples of well-known slam poets.
Winnipeg has its own slam poetry community—you can find information about that on their website: http://winnipegpoetryslam.wordpress.com/.