Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review: Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

I feel the need to start this post with a confession: I hate poetry. Like, seriously hate it. When I was doing forensics in high school and college, poetry was the one category I could never muster any passion for.

So when I opened up Because I Am Furniture and found myself confronted with an entire novel filled with poems, I was ready to quit before I even started. The only reason I kept going was because I was already on the subway platform and could see my train coming down the tunnel - no time to run back to the apartment to pick up some prose.

Thank goodness for that approaching train, because despite my initial dislike of the format, I found Because I Am Furniture to be an extremely compelling story.

Anke is the youngest of three children in an abusive household. Anke's father is physically, sexually, verbally, and emotionally abusive to the entire family - except Anke, it seems. He tries to strictly control her life, forbidding her to participate in volleyball, for example (he claims competition will ruin a woman's mind), but essentially Anke feels ignored - just a piece of furniture - while the rest of her family is the focus of her father's negative attention.

What I found most compelling was Chaltas' acknowledgment of the deeply conflicting feelings often felt by victims of abuse. In several chilling poems, Anke wishes that her father physically abused her - at least then she'd know he was paying attention to her. She feels guilty that she hasn't turned him in, that she hasn't protected her family - but then wonders why no one else is stepping up to report him.

At times the book is absolutely painful to read - not quite on the level of Living Dead Girl, but still chilling and disturbing. It's also an extremely fast read - no poem is more than two pages in length, and due to the formatting they really are all very short. I had this one finished before I got home the same day - despite my initial dislike of poetry in general, I found that I had to keep turning the page to follow Anke's story as she slowly gains the strength to stand up to her father.
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