Young adult author Martine Leavitt found a way to take a story so besmeared no one wants to hear it, and to tell it in such a compelling manner that readers wrench hands away from our ears to hear it. Leavitt found a way to let in the pain of the story, all of it, and not die. She found a way to stay compassionate, stay alive. How did she go that deep? How did she stand the immersion process of research and writing? How did she tell ugliness in poetry?
I wish I could say. What I see is that she made her narrator, Angel, both ethereal and excruciatingly real by embracing the whole of Angel. What I hear is a voice, in Angel’s diary in verse, which has the spareness, the authenticity, and the reverberations of great poetry. What I see is that Leavitt brilliantly framed the story and juxtaposed with Angel’s harsh life, quotations from Milton’s Paradise Lost, thus linking forever in the reader’s mind the sordid with the sublime.
She wrote a book that is a container of passion, a volcano that can somehow fit between book covers, yet burst its fire in the reader’s soul and create cascading lava of ramifications. As author, Leavitt had to hold within the container of herself, first, the whole story of the disappeared girls from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Then she created Angel, had to become Angel. Leavitt felt her way in to the macro story from the micro story of one girl’s experience – one girl’s fierce mind piecing together the true story of a misogynist killer, one girl with a name, laboring to wean herself off drugs and get out of the life. Leavitt told the story from the inside, out.
As a writer, I marvel at Leavitt’s accomplishment. To me it seems that authorship operates something like a pre-incarnating Self who sees a whole lifetime spread as a story, but then at conception on the earthplane, forgets. The writer then gropes her slow way to reveal the story to herself, piecemeal, hour by agonizing hour at the page— until finally, with the best of authors, with a book like My Book of Life by Angel, the story bursts into seamless, scalding clarity; even, joy. Thank you, Martine.