The skin has taken on increasing importance as we’re nearing the one-year mark of this global pandemic. We’ve collectively been in self-quarantine, stuck in our homes, in our rooms and in our skin.
Personally, this has led me to identify issues of chronic pain that I’ve been grappling with for years but had not identified prior. I never needed to nor was I given a moment of pause to make that keen observation. Until recently.
Now, thanks to the pandemic, my body is something I have to sit inside and my skin is something I have to be inside, mindfully and constantly with few distractions. Of course, my chronic pain is at least partially related to my emotions and mental health. And of course, it crawls, as ASHA sudra’s book title indicates, “Crawling in My Skin” (which you can purchase here).
sudra’s 2019 book is about mental health—or the lack thereof—yet it is important to remind ourselves that regardless of our issues, our body and mind are primarily something we need to thank. We may not look how we want, feel how we should, resemble any idealized version of people we see on the screen, but nonetheless, it is ours.
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sudra uniquely narrates critique and commentary around the topics of anxiety and depression through extended metaphor, and she picks ants as her reference point. I love a good motif and strangely, ants speak to me on an intimate level, perhaps because of their pervasiveness. I’ve been bitten by crazy fire ants during a trip to the South when I was instructed by my mom to go and pose next to a tree and look cute for a photo (I looked cute but I got bit which was un-cute).
Additionally, I fondly remember my mom narrating stories to me about the huge ants (called makora in Hindi) that crawl around Bombay and her urban folklore stories promising that if you cross them, they will remember you forever and find a way to vengefully bite you.
Although I have anecdotal experiences with ants, this poetry collection would be best suited for someone who enjoys reading about mental health through an artistically scientific eye. sudra digs deep into the science of ants by titling some of her poems with the binomial nomenclature of certain ant species including “Camponotus modoc,” “Tetramorium caespitum,” “Solenopsis molesta” and “Tapino melanocephalum.” The diversity of ant species, and the general pervasiveness of ants, help sudra normalize variations of mental health—namely, hers. And she also normalizes the ebb and flow of mental health issues that may unpredictably plague us.
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Because sudra relies so heavily on the extended ant metaphor in “Crawling in My Skin” I am curious to see what her recent release “Not Your Masi’s Generation” (published in December 2020) sounds and reads like. I’m curious what her new book says about age, time, healing and trauma.
ASHA sudra is someone I met personally before the pandemic came and deprived us of organic social interaction. I wanted to review her older literature as she continues to release more and more of her writing.
This Thursday, February 18 at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST, I am excited to interview her on Instagram Live via BrownGirlMag to learn more about her recent work.