WCC student Ashley Shankles (a.k.a. Ashley Nakanishi), shares her life experience through poetry and just had her first poetry collection published by Pueo Press.
She titles the book, Blood, Sweat, and Breast Milk, as a response to the grief over the loss of a dear friend and ex-lover of hers who died last year. Last summer, Shankles made this her personal project.
Blood, Sweat, and Breast Milk consists of slam material, prose quotes and much more. The content of the book is mostly based on sexual violence, immigration, love, work and parenting.
The title is a metaphor that refers to the trials Shankles faced in becoming the woman and mother that she is today.
“Everything symbolizes something in the book,” Shankles said. “All parts of the book and every word”.
The-24-year-old originally from Chatan, Okinawa, Japan, said that she’s always enjoyed writing poetry, but it wasn’t until she attended WCC that she decided to make something of it.
She explained that the intimacy between her and the book was intense. The book talks about the plight of women on the journey of becoming, the condition of society, rape culture and her experiences as a byproduct of that culture.
In addition to some anecdotes on life, family and love, Shankles said that this book was written to heal the brokenness she felt at the time.
She shares an array of topics from immigrating to America to domestic and sexual violence to the strength of her family ties.
“To avoiding feelings that I long repressed to find myself in the chaos of madness that was depression and anxiety, to find love in midst of all my sorrow. I wrote the book to remind myself I’m a survivor,” Shankles said.
Shankles dedicated herself night and day to writing non-stop. Any possible time she had to write she took that time during walks, bus rides, car rides, waiting in lines or on the front porch with countless cups of coffee.
The process of making the book, which included organizing, editing, sending manuscripts and waiting for responses, took the most time.
However, it was Robert Barclay, WCC English professor and head of Pueo Press, an independent publisher associated with WCC’s Rain Bird literary journal, who picked up her work and said they could make something of it.
A year later, Blood, Sweat and Breast Milk was published.
“I’ve dedicated my success to many of our professors on campus,” Shankles said. “It was because of the faith of Roy Inouye (TRiO), the criticisms of Janine Oshiro and Libby Young, the support and encouragement of Robert Barclay and Annette Priesman, and the special and careful craft of Nick Logue and Taurie Kinoshita that really took my words from page to stage, that I was able to gather the confidence to send out my manuscript.”
Shankles is currently working on her upcoming play called “Surviving Minerva” and her second book entitled She Crazy. These two projects will be covering immigration, therapy, mental awareness and the trials of being a person of bipolarism. She expects both works to be out sometime this year.
With over 50 copies of Blood, Sweat, and Breast Milk already sold, Shankles will be launching her book as part of the Triple Premier Gala on May 5 at Hale ‘Ākoakoa.
The book is now available on kindle and Amazon, where it is ranked fourth among Asian American poetry.
by Dutches Richards, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter