Anarcha, one of the three identified victims of J. Marion Sims, who performed experiments on slave women to be hailed as “the father of modern gynecology” should not have had her voice taken away. Such unimaginable cruelty should not have happened to her. Yet, here we are, in a world where women, especially black women, still die in child birth and during gynecological procedures the world over. So to see the history of gynecology, which humbly doubles as the only life she ever had, through Anarcha’s eyes was something that needed to happen. And I applaud Dominique Christina for this strong, impactful poetic gesture. The scenes she sets for Anarcha, some fictional, some documentary, are all accurately painful and grim and impossible to escape. In one of them, Anarcha contemplates suicide but decides that she doesn’t love herself enough. This raises in the reader a very clinical terror and a claustrophobia of marginalization. A great accomplishment of the book’s thesis, and one which I admired a lot, despite finding the story to excessively, speculatively meander at times.
Anarcha Speaks by Dominique Christina
Published by Beacon Press in 2018