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Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems

4.59  ·  Rating details ·  56 ratings  ·  18 reviews
The reimagined story of Anarcha, an enslaved Black woman, subjected to medical experiments by Dr. Marion Sims. Selected by Tyehimba Jess as a National Poetry Series winner.

In this provocative collection by award-winning poet and artist Dominique Christina, the historical life of Anarcha is personally reenvisioned. Anarcha was an enslaved Black woman who endured experimenta
Paperback, 95 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by Beacon Press
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Lindsey Z
May 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a powerhouse of a collection! Christina gives voice to Anarcha in raw, painful, bold ways. We get Anarcha's story, her hopes and dreams, her grappling with faith, and her experiences at the brutal hands of Dr. Marion Sims. We also get his voice, and Christina captures the dehumanizing ideology he espoused and the pseudo-science he used to justify his repeated violence against enslaved Black women. But, unlike in real life, Anarcha gets a chance to speak back. The imagery in these poems is s ...more
Sierra Hunter
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't even breathe after reading this. I have no words. My heart is aching
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
me? a bruised ghost
i concentrate on
my teeth/ the roof of my mouth/
i'm tryna rub it smooth/ concentrate on not blinkin

see how long I can go til my eyes need to shut.

Anarcha was one of eleven slaves who were purchased by "father" of modern gynecology Dr Marion Sims for his research. Essentially torturing these women, Sims did his research (including surgeries) without offering pain relief or sedation. Our lauded study and history of medicine has for so long been polished of its shameful bits, but
Carl Waluconis
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of truth and poetry
Shelves: poetry
Here is another young talented poet who skillfully weaves a volume of poems around historical events. The poems concern J. Marion Simms, once called the "Father of Gynecology." He utilized enslaved black women for his "medical" research, and given the race relations during that time, of course did so without any permission given. Anarcha was one of those women. The results were gruesome and inhumane. These are extremely hard hitting poems, as the uncompromised truth often is. These are part of w ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
So much of the things we take for granted and enjoy in this world have terrible histories. Do you know the history of gynaecology? J Marion Sims is considered the father of modern gynaecology, but most of what he learned was based on experiments on slave women, on whom he performed surgeries without anesthesia.

In this slim collection of poems Dominique Christina images Anarcha’s life, allowing her to speak for herself. Anarcha had 13 surgeries performed on her. Here, finally, she gets a voice. S
Dec 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Dominique Christina, Denver poet, put pain, horror, anguish, sadness in "Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems". I'm not much of a reader of poetry, but these managed to wrench my heart.
Humbling and enraging. The story of Anarcha in this format is so effective and well done.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had the honour of listening to Christina recite the near-entirety of this today in Boulder, Colorado. It's worming its way down my spine still. Dominique Christina invoked some powerful spirits in that room today, perhaps the ghost, or a fraction of Anarcha herself. The physical and mental process of inhabiting and invoking Anarcha, is admirable, necessary, and what being a poet is all about. Inhabiting the different, outraging and creating the shimmer of hope: ANARCHY! RESISTANCE!
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
"fine. new hell, whatever."

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. Trigger warning for violence inflicted on black bodies, including rape and medical experimentation.)

this bruise ain't no girl
she gone
she never gon be again
she too much a ghost even
for burial

when he left
seem like he stayed
like i kept
some of it
like i ain't
have no other way

and now Betsey say
i expecting...

how you translate
a bludgeonin to
a birth?

you tell me how
Bernie Gourley
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This collection of poems, written by Dominique Christina and selected / arranged into a story by Tyehimba Jess, tells the story of a slave woman who was used for medical experimentation. Most of the poems are in the voice of this woman, Anarcha, and are conveyed in a slave dialect. However, a few are from the perspective of Dr. Marion Sims, the doctor who used Anarcha (and other slave women) for research and experimental procedures. Even without the cues in the poem titles, it’s easy to tell whe ...more
Katya Kazbek
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 Anar ...more
Edward Sullivan
An extraordinary collection of poems reimagining the story of Anarcha, an enslaved Black woman subjected to medical experimentation and torture by Dr. Marion Sims, known as the father of modern gynecology.

Zack Martin
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This history in poems will change you. It’s as simple and as agonizing as that.
Stephen Byrne
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book of poetry. Highly recommended.
Edmund Davis-Quinn
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Impressive book. The horrors African American people have known throughout our history is atrocious. This is definitely one I will have to read again.
Bernie Karkar
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Powerful, heavy, painful poetry. If you ever read a collection of poetry in your life, it should be this one.

Tyehimba Jess: "Sims wrote his legacy of healing in the blood of enslaved Black women who had no choice but to surrender to his scalpel and thread, who endured his harrowing research only to be relegated to the footnotes of history. [...] Anarcha and her fellow subjects bore the price of scientific progress with stitch after painful stitch at the core of their beings. Sims subjected Anarc
Brandi H
rated it it was amazing
Sep 30, 2019
I will never be able to un-hear, to un-read, to un-think Christina's words. Anarcha Speaks is powerful.
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is an award-winning poet, author, educator, and activist. She holds five national poetry slam titles in four years, including the 2014 & 2012 Women of the World Slam Champion and 2011 National Poetry Slam Champion. Her work is greatly influenced by her family's legacy in the Civil Rights Movement and by the idea that worlds make worlds. Her poetry collections: The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm: A ...more

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