The latest in the UnCUT/VOICES family of scholars and novelists is Lawrelynd Bowin.
Her memoir Swimming in a Red Sea tells the story of 39-year-old Lawra Linda Bawman, an African Canadian who grew up in Port Kamsar, Guinea; studied politics in Moscow; married a Dutchman; moved to Vancouver, resided in Brussels, and has now returned to North America. Multiple migrations are merely part of the search for identity of a young woman whose youth was marred by gendered ordeals. Jailed as a girl by her uncle for flirting with a boy, she is raped, subjected to FGM, and, at age twelve, compelled to witness her mother’s fatal experience in childbirth. Facing eternity, the grand multigravida – defined as a woman who gives birth six times or more-, extracts a promise from her daughter to assume responsibility for the new-born.
Life chronicles penned by immigrant women are rare; Bawman’s narrative adds significantly to the genre. Captive to her African past, the protagonist seeks escape and solace in the West only to discover that trauma follows. She mistakenly assumes that rejecting Africa will enable her to thrive. On the contrary. Her origins insistently intrude. Suppressed memories erupt and disrupt daily life, returning the heroine to Guinea, both physically and psychologically, by somatic mimicking of her mother who bled to death. Whenever upset – by the Brussels terrorist attack, for instance–, Lawra Linda suffers spontaneous bleeding, a reminder of loss never overcome but at least assuaged by devotion to the health of her sons, husband, and self. She continues questioning the justice of existence while subduing fear of dying and confronting, for her children’s sake, a troubled world.
The multilingual author and actor offers scenes of brutality tempered by resistance flowing into love. A Preface by Dr. Fabienne Richard, Executive Director of GAMS Belgium and midwife at the FGM Clinics, CeMAViE, University Hospital St. Pierre, Brussels; and an Afterword by Dr. Tobe Levin von Gleichen, associate of the Hutchins Center for African and African American research at Harvard, locate Bowin’s achievement in the context of creative writing in which migration, women’s identity, benevolent action and trauma associated with FGM are major themes.
You can order Swimming in a Red Sea at amazon.com