Reclaiming Our Power: A Conversation with Reema Zaman

She cooked and cleaned and catered to his each want; he wiped off her make-up when he thought she was sporting an excessive amount of. She was afraid to talk brazenly; he ranted about having “sister wives.” She starved herself bodily and emotionally; he feasted on her must be good. Within the debut memoir I Am Yours, Reema Zaman tells the story of overcoming an emotionally abusive relationship and finally, reclaiming her voice.

The construction of I Am Yours gave me a shared expertise with the writer. As I turned the final web page of this memoir, I couldn’t assist however really feel like Zaman and I have been on this journey collectively, hand-in-hand. What I really like most about Zaman’s writing is that you simply don’t need to rescue her since you don’t really feel like you need to. She is anchored. She has claimed her power, and should you comply with her path, you’ll have yours, too. She is seizing the torch, holding it excessive, and asking us to keep in mind that we aren’t alone.

Zaman, born in Bangladesh and raised in Thailand, can also be a speaker and actress. We spoke concerning the strategy of writing about this type of abuse, the required audacity of caring for your self, and the risks and triumphs of being a millennial lady in the present day.


The Rumpus: Writing a memoir about emotional abuse is a massively formidable enterprise. I used to be shocked once I learn that scripting this ebook wasn’t particularly troublesome for you. How is it that the phrases simply spilled onto the web page?

Reema Zaman: For such a very long time, I wasn’t allowed to talk. So, once I was lastly in a protected area and capable of converse, all I needed to do was sit down and transcribe the lifelong dialog that had transpired in my head. For therefore lengthy, no one needed to listen to from me, and any time I tried to talk my fact, I incurred hurt. Whenever you’re in an abusive relationship you’re bodily, financially, and emotionally not protected. Talking is harmful. Furthermore, along with the abusive marriage, I had been part of different relationships, cultures, and conditions the place my voice was not welcome.

I Am Yours lived inside me for thirty years, quiet, affected person, prepared, ready for me to reach at an area in my life, emotionally and bodily, once I might sit down and take dictation. The narrative construction is chronological, starting in infancy main as much as age thirty-one, as a result of I needed the journey and dialog to sound exactly the best way I lived it. I fought to reach in a spot in my life the place I might lastly converse. As soon as there, every little thing rushed out.

Rumpus: At first, I anticipated I Am Yours to focus in your relationship with your ex-husband. As an alternative, the guide begins a lot earlier, with your mother and father’ relationship and the connection you had with your father. Do you know it will begin there?

Zaman: In a means, you went via the identical discovery that I did, of realizing, “Oh, wait a minute, I thought the story was going to be this one marriage but actually, the story goes beyond that and is about something much larger.” As soon as I left my ex-husband, I assumed I used to be going to write down the story of what occurred between us. However I noticed that a lot of the rationale why I used to be able to staying in that emotionally abusive and ravenous relationship is as a result of I used to be so professional at ravenous myself bodily and physiologically by way of anorexia, an sickness I had battled for fifteen years. I had been loyal to my husband as a result of I had grown so accustomed to ache and hunger. And I noticed that to know my anorexia I needed to delve into my childhood, to recall how my mom had felt continuous strain to be as small as she might be—bodily, emotionally, and vocally.

To really perceive who we’re, we’ve got to return to the start. Once we say “beginning,” it’s not merely the start of our bodily life, but in addition what occurred in our mother and father’ lives to make them who they’re. Wounds, if left unhealed, will metastasize. Wounds, if left unchecked, might be handed on and inherited.

Rumpus: You got here up with an fascinating poetic voice that’s used as you progress chronologically all through the story of your life. The reader watches you develop from a toddler to a younger lady via the modifications of your voice. After which there are these interludes that appear to be written from a extra current, reflecting narrator.

Zaman: I started in a present-tense, child-voice as a result of I needed to speak particulars and scenes about my mother and father with the utmost loving-kindness and compassion, with out sounding analytical, distant, harsh, or judgmental. I felt if I used an grownup voice, recalling flashbacks, I may need sounded aloof or overly cerebral. There’s something very disarming, non-judgmental, and fascinating about seeing issues by way of a toddler’s eyes, feeling their emotions. I created a lyrical voice that makes use of symbols and metaphor as a result of this poetic language allowed me to trace on issues which have occurred to sure characters, notably my mother and father, with out my intruding into their privateness. The poetry acts as a soothing, inviting hand, to make a transparent but mild level. It invitations you, the reader, to attach the dots in your understanding of the characters in your life, and my understanding of the characters in my life, in order that collectively, we will each achieve deeper readability and compassion.

Rumpus: I associated to the sample of emotionally abusive relationships you had with males. First it was your father, then your ex-husband, and then you definitely introduce an fascinating character you name “the Prince.” Do you assume you’ve lastly damaged this sample of falling into emotionally abusive relationships, since scripting this memoir?

Zaman: Completely. I needed to point out that typically, we expect it’s going to be straightforward. Nicely, I received out of that unhealthy relationship. Now I’ll spend three months on my own after which, I’ll be nice. However, no! As a result of the story—all our tales—begins many years earlier than. The alternatives we make in our thirties aren’t remoted incidents. Thirty years beforehand, these decisions began coming into play, like prophecies based mostly on parts from the previous. By writing concerning the Prince, I needed for instance how this happens, how I relapsed into the cycle of abusive relationships as a result of I hadn’t but carried out the deep work to know and launch the poisonous conditioning that made me prone to abusive males.

It was solely after I sat down to write down I Am Yours that I gained true understanding of the cycle, the conditioning that ruled it, and was capable of exchange the dangerous psychology with an entire new id and vanity that’s anchored, wholesome, and powerful. Writing a memoir is about therapeutic and reclaiming one’s narrative, in order that the longer term could be lived via wiser decisions. Now that I’ve gained possession of my life, I’m not in peril of relapsing to abusive forces.

Rumpus: How do you assume different younger ladies can break this sample of emotional abuse?

Zaman: With a view to break the cycle of abuse, we first should take trustworthy evaluation of what has occurred in our lives, in our personal decisions and habits, after which hint how these habits and decisions got here to be. Then, we determine to switch that poisonous psychology with a wholesome psychology towards our wants, towards our our bodies, towards how we really feel about love, towards our understanding of house and what we deserve. I feel writing a memoir (or any journey of deep self-reflection and realignment) is a matter of re-parenting ourselves. Finally, it’s a rebirth.

Rumpus: As a younger lady who was in an emotionally abusive relationship, I perceive the area these males can take up in our lives. But you selected to not point out any of their names. You write, “His name doesn’t matter and will never matter. What matters is the woman I am on my own, and the woman I am with him.”

Zaman: Precisely. Their names don’t matter. For me, this journey was not about discovering the subsequent man. It was about discovering myself and thru that, my energy. This story is about leaving in order that I might reclaim my voice and create the lady I needed to be.

Rumpus: At first within the ebook, you slip into the position of the well mannered younger lady. But because the story progresses, it looks like you discover this position increasingly more troublesome to satisfy. How do gender roles play into your story?

Zaman: We girls are inspired to be good in each approach. It’s a social contract we’re born and sworn into, with out our selecting. For conventional society to proceed and thrive because it has, it requires our well mannered obedience to the contract. Quite a few individuals profit from our obedience. An unlimited a part of the contract is that we don’t complain, to the purpose the place we stay so quiet, forgiving, and compassionate about different individuals’s dangerous decisions that we turn out to be tolerant and enabling of abusive conduct.

We’re taught that a “strong woman” all the time rises above the immaturity and cruelty of the lads round her, and that really, the presence of a person’s immaturity or cruelty is a sign that as ladies, we should do our all to know, forgive, and look after him, to “help him grow.” It’s an insidious net of gaslighting and conditioning projected upon us by society from the time we’re younger women. There’s a dangerously high-quality line between being an ideal, well mannered, and “strong” lady to finally enabling abusive conduct. The American Affiliation of Psychology revealed a paper in 2018 that exhibits an unlimited rise in perfectionism and the strain to be good in millennial ladies. The rise in perfectionism parallels an increase in consuming issues, in workaholism, in numerous manifestations of us being so extremely exhausting on ourselves as a result of we really feel we have to be good, to show we’re sufficient.

I’ll attest as nicely that an habit to perfectionism can result in a dangerous tolerance towards abusive conduct. Perfectionism, compounded by previous experiences, conditioning, or modeling, makes us say, “I’m too smart, strong, and confident to allow abuse into my life. I got this. I just have to work harder at fixing him, healing him, helping him so that he can become a better person.” We tackle abusive companions as if it’s one other job on our listing of issues to perform day-after-day to show we’re sufficient, together with having the right hair, good make-up, good outfit, good physique, good job, and by no means complaining. We start to put on ache as a badge of honor.

However we should understand that being sensible, robust, and assured just isn’t a cause to simply accept any type of unkindness or ache. Genuine power doesn’t embrace accepting, forgiving, and enabling abusive conduct, be it from oneself towards oneself, or from one other individual.

It isn’t our job nor our responsibly to heal and reform the abusers of the world. We’re already sufficient with out having something to show or obtain. Moreover, because it was by no means our duty, and once we’re unable to reform an abuser it isn’t our failure. Neither is it our disgrace to hold. Disgrace doesn’t belong to the abused. Disgrace rests on the society that raises abusers.

Rumpus: Within the chapter titled “Fight,” the reader learns of your rape. This chapter was particularly troublesome for me to learn, but you write it with such grace and compassion. How was that attainable?

Zaman: This chapter was written for the reader to understand that we’re by no means born with misogyny, hatred, or worry in our hearts. As youngsters, we’re born harmless, no matter gender we’re. We’re taught worry by means of abandonment and wounds; we’re taught hatred by way of the unfairness we’re modeled. It’s how I do know to forgive human beings. The one that raped me wasn’t born a rapist. One thing occurred for him to turn into able to such cruelty. Maybe he was deserted by society at giant, or by one among his mother and father. There’s that sentence the place I look deep in his eyes, I see his pupils have dilated, and all traces of humanity have left. One thing occurred for the humanity to go away his eyes, for him to then inflict such indignity on my physique. As a result of I acknowledge that, it permits me to have grace, compassion, and forgiveness, which I carry by way of the memoir. Having grace and forgiveness additionally permit for a quiet power, to maintain dwelling.

Rumpus: You seek advice from I Am Yours not solely as a memoir, but in addition as an expertise. What do you imply by that?

Zaman: From the very starting, I needed the e-book to really feel like an expertise. In fact, each e-book is an expertise, however I needed I Am Yours to really feel like a visceral expertise. This guide modified my cells. Writing it healed me of anorexia. It healed me of the poisonous psychology I had inherited, and right now, I’m incapable of placing myself in harmful conditions. I skilled an alchemic transformation the identical approach that if you prepare dinner one thing, the cells are modified irrevocably, by no means to return to their unique state. I needed the expertise of studying this guide to really feel like a collection of awakening moments which are so transformative that you simply enter the guide one individual, and also you end the guide having risen to the subsequent stage of your human existence.

I labored over each single sentence for 5 years. I wrote the primary draft in a single yr, then continued to develop and finesse each line. I needed to be meticulous as a result of I’m enjoying with quite a few units that require intense craft, management, understanding, and stability. For example, breaking the fourth wall and talking on to the reader is an incredible danger. If finished haphazardly or too often it could sound pressured or tacky. In the event you layer it in too occasionally then it’s startling.

Equally with the poeticism and the metaphors, I made positive to trace all of the metaphors so they might evolve and circle again at simply the correct occasions, in the proper methods. If there was a metaphor that began on the primary web page and continued to the ultimate web page, it needed to be woven in several methods all through the narrative. You’ll see within the childhood part, all of the metaphors are childlike. Crayons. Ballerinas inside music packing containers. Misplaced buttons. Then once I’m in New York, the metaphors relate to carnivorous, devouring creatures as a result of that’s how New York feels in its commodification of the feminine physique. Once I write about my ex-husband, all of the metaphors are about hearth, management, hazard, burning.

At first, I didn’t assume I had a narrative. But the characters and experiences in my life made it inevitable for me to put in writing a memoir as a result of they have been so completely positioned. The story already existed, lengthy earlier than I grew conscious of it. As soon as I understood the patterns and connections, and gained power from recognizing them, I noticed there was worth in sharing this story. Gaining readability of and from this story was such a liberating journey for me. I hope I Am Yours could be a catalyst for liberation, braveness, love, and therapeutic for others.

Rumpus: So many memoirs finish with a “happily ever after” story line; it was refreshing to learn that yours ends in a different way. It meant rather a lot to me, as a reader. How did you come up with the ending of this ebook?

Zaman: Thanks. I really like that it meant a lot to you, too, as a result of it meant a lot to me. I don’t determine with the “happily ever after” trope, particularly the concept fortunately ever after can solely exist in case you discover the perfect man, have a selected variety of youngsters, and stay in an ideal, lovely home. That’s not my present fortunately ever after. Maybe will probably be, in 5 or ten years, however I don’t agree with saying that there’s one finite definition of happiness and success that we should always all aspire for, and subsequently, if we don’t attain it, we fail.

Being in alignment with my self is the fortunately ever after I supply because the ending of I Am Yours; that basis is the start of final happiness. I do know so many ladies who’ve achieved the outside perfection however they’re nonetheless struggling inside as a result of, finally, the pivotal think about sustainable, lasting happiness is how glad we’re with ourselves, how deeply we all know ourselves, and the way sincerely assured we’re in our personal voice, in our personal energy.

I needed to put in writing an genuine ending, an anti-ending to the dangerous Hollywood and Disney myths that we have been fed as youngsters. I’ve discovered my voice, and subsequently my energy on this world, and no matter occurs, I can be okay. It was liberating and validating to say that as my ultimate chapter. I belief that for different ladies studying this, it is going to be liberating to say that as the ultimate chapter, too.

Rumpus: How do you are feeling now that you simply’ve completed the guide?

Zaman: I really feel a deep peace figuring out this e-book is strictly the guide I needed to put in writing. To see it already having such an influence in different individuals’s lives is the best achievement. I’ll have written the preliminary notes of this music. Now, different voices are studying them, rising to roar this anthem.


Photograph of Reema Zaman © Erika Ellis Images.

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