I wrote I Am Yours as a love letter of comfort and strength for survivors of trauma of any kind, and as a call to action to our allies, an invitation for their empathy, so that we may join together to heal and evolve as a human family. I wrote I Am Yours to provide the words of love and solidarity I wish others had known to give me when I was bullied as a brown kid in school, when I was battling anorexia as a teenager, when I was stalked by a predator at age 18, when I immigrated to the States by myself, when I was raped at 23 or going through an abusive marriage at 26. I wrote I Am Yours so that years from now, my daughters and granddaughters and great granddaughters will not have to weep over the same wounds that made my mother and I cry. I wrote I Am Yours because every time I publish or speak a word, another human being hears that their story matters. That they too deserve love, kindness. and respect. That they too, you too, me too, we too, we are all vital voices in a connective, collective roar.
I created Love Letter Mondays for the identical reasons. I Am Yours is a book-length offering of love. Love Letter Mondays are written with the same voice and intentions. After Trump was elected and the #MeToo movement came into our lives, in early 2018, I began feeling that it was necessary to create a soft space for us all to rest our hearts, remember our power, and rejuvenate our energy before a long week. I knew I Am Yours was going to be published in early 2019 but the call for love and the call to love requires immediate action. Thus, in spring 2018, Love Letter Mondays was born. The weekly series has created an astonishing online community of kindred souls. We are proof that radical vulnerability and authenticity are empowering and invigorating. In a world full of corrupt politics, systemic wounds, and growing disconnection, I wanted to create something pure yet fiery and audacious. A riotous roar of love. It appears that these love letters are a balm and a community that so many of us have been craving. I’m daily humbled by the depth of connection and conversation the letters have brought to life. We are love in motion.
I’m moving out of my apartment. I’ve whittled down my belongings to a few boxes of books and two suitcases of clothes, and am donating the rest to the Veterans Center and to Raphael House (a home for women who have survived intimate partner violence.) I’m storing my books and clothes at my parents’ place and will go off into the world to travel with I Am Yours. I did the exact same thing five years ago: I kept a few things, gave most things to those who needed them, and moved from New York to Oregon with the firm resolve to write and publish one specific book. Many friends have asked me if I’m anxious about releasing I Am Yours into the world. The sincere truth is No, not at all. I’m so excited and at peace. The book has given me so much. It helped heal my anorexia and mended the gashes of the past. It brought a new depth of closeness into my family. It introduced me to the power of my voice. The book is complete; it no longer needs me, and I no longer need it. It now belongs to the world, free to travel to whomever needs it next.
I love moving and the growth that moving brings. I’ve learned that my voice and my body are my home. As long as I have my voice, I can feel the earth beneath me, the sky above me.
What or where or who is your home? Is there anything you no longer need and are ready to release into the world? I love that every creation of art is a gift made for oneself and for others. Dear one, what creation are you presently navigating? Perhaps the gift you are bringing to life isn’t a specific book or film or play but rather, the masterpiece is your Self. Which is, after all, ultimately the case, forever and beyond.
Thank you for being such a gift.
Writing a memoir deepened my compassion for others. Sure, growing up, I had been taught compassion by my parents. But writing memoir introduced me to a whole new authenticity of compassion. Writing memoir involves deep introspection and interrogation, and like any practice that exercises those muscles, it makes you look at an experience from all points of view, including the views and backstories of the characters who once hurt you. Be it through abandonment. Negligence. Betrayal. Physical, sexual, or emotional violence. I expected to feel anger while revisiting those chapters and characters of my life. And I did feel anger. But the most prominent and lasting emotion was empathy. Compassion. And sympathy.
All of us were born as children. Innocent and full of trust in the world. Then, it is through nonchalant or deliberate wounds that our faith is fractured. We become the love or the pain that is taught to us. In this there lives an invitation and potential for empathy, compassion, forgiveness toward life and those who wound. In this there exists proof that every human is but a sum of choices, made unto us, made by ourselves, and therefore, we all hold the power and possibility to heal, change, grow, and evolve. We can choose love.
Your heart — like you — is mighty, brave, and profound.
As featured in The New York Times, Reema Zaman is an award-winning author, speaker, and actress, and the 2018 Oregon Literary Arts Writer of Color Fellow. Born in Bangladesh, raised in Thailand, and presently residing in Oregon, she holds a double BA in Gender Studies and Theater from Skidmore College. Her wildly acclaimed memoir I Am Yours will be released February 5, 2019. Beloved by all communities, all ages, all genders, I Am Yours has already been adopted into the curriculum for several high schools through an Innovation Grant from the Oregon Department of Eduction.
I Am Yours is the story of Reema’s unwavering fight to protect and free her voice from the harsh winds, and hands, of life. Beginning in Bangladesh, moving into Thailand, then New York, and finally, Oregon, I Am Yours is an iconic, definitive book on the female, the human, condition. In impossibly gorgeous prose that is at once beautiful and biting, poetic and political, haunting and healing, Reema’s personal narrative acts as an uncannily perfect backdrop to ask and answer our most pressing universal questions: Why do we wound each other and ourselves? Why do we oppress and overpower when, beneath pigment, all flesh are the same color? And, in this rapidly changing world, what is authentic integrity, kindness, and equality, and how do we put them into practice, amidst genders, amidst family, amidst one another?
Above all, what is, and where is, home? In I Am Yours, these queries are explored, traveling between the streets of Dhaka, slums of Bangkok, and glittery film sets of New York City, in a singular voice that is radically vulnerable, loving, and powerful.