Am I Not by Emily Kwissa – a review… kind of

Posted: August 15, 2013 in Uncategorized


I guess this is a review, but not really. There is too much of me in this post to be an actual review.

I am not very good at being an impartial observer.

I had heard of the existence of this book some time back. I don’t recall when, exactly, but I know that Emily was looking for advance readers. She didn’t ask me, which is fine as I am not very good at such things. I am not meticulous enough.

I saw a copy of the manuscript when I was visiting Danielle in Seattle. I am guessing that a lot was changed since then as that manuscript was A LOT longer than this book. It was huge.

Danielle told me that I was in the book.

(Remember what I said about being an impartial observer?)

Flash back further. Way further.

I knew some of Emily and Tracy’s history. Yet I didn’t really know any of it. I knew about the court dates and a person (especially a young person) does not go to court against their ‘father’ unless things were bad. Really bad.

I heard Emily’s poem about him.

So, I thought I knew. I guess I did, but it is one thing to ‘know’ and another to know.

I didn’t really want to read it, but I also didn’t want to do Emily the disservice of acting like it didn’t happen. She deserves more than that. Much more.

I grew up in one of those denial cultures. I have learned to say ‘just because you don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen’. Not reading about what Emily went through doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

The book appeared on my Facebook wall. Emily had just published the soft-cover version (there was previously a hard-cover but I somehow hadn’t heard about it. (Now that Emily has moved away, we don’t see each other very often so that is not a huge surprise.)

I ordered it immediately.

The book arrived a few days ago and I started reading it right away.

I was steeled for it. I didn’t cry.

There is a lot in there to cry about.

I am not going to talk about the content as it is not my story to tell. It is Emily’s. Read the book.

There were parts that were hard for other reasons. Some people I know and like and respect did not come across in a particularly kind way at times. Even the good people failed Emily. I hurt for Tracy as I read this, imagining how hard it was for her to read this (though she is very supportive of the book). Even Rick, Emily’s grandfather – who I like very much, must cringe when he reads about the times when she needed support and didn’t get it.

People aren’t perfect and in here you get the warts. A lot of people failed Emily… and Fletcher… and Megan… and Tracy…


As for the review part, this book is very well written. That Emily is good with words in no surprise but her ability to do so while dealing with such personally painful memories is a gift to the reader. I was engaged as a reader as well as a friend.


Speaking of being a friend… yes, I am in the book.

Last night I was at a CapSlam team fundraiser and we had a lot of fun. I have gone through some… confidence issues about my poetry and voice in relatively recent times and last night was one of those times that made me feel energized. I got a huge pop for my poems – both solo and team work. Angst went over big.

I felt good. I haven’t always felt that way. I have written about feeling like I was being left behind and that my words didn’t really matter.

If I ever feel that way again, I should pick up Emily’s book and read the two pages that talk about the first slam in Carleton Place and the impact my words had on her family.

This wasn’t the first time I had heard the story. I spoke to Rick at the Lanark finals that year and he told me what an effect I had on him. It has just continued since then. I was at the show where he FEATURED, reading works from his story collection. He dedicated his performance to Emily, Danielle and me.

When I heard that I got partial credit for ending his marriage… well, that didn’t feel like something to brag about. Yet, as odd as that sounds, apparently it should be.

He is happy… and in a way that he hadn’t been happy for a very long time.

Did I cause that?

No way.

Did my words spark a catalyst that launched him down this path?

I didn’t cry when I read about the abuse Emily had suffered at the hands of a monster who pretended to be her father. I didn’t cry as I read about Emily trying desperately to cope with a life that no child should have to suffer through – from abuse at a young age – including but not limited to sexual abuse – to having to face this monster in a court room. I was steeled to it. It was horrific and sad but I was ready for it. (Though I came close when Emily ‘remembered’ and again when reading Tracy’s review of the book.)

Yet last night, when I got to the pages that talked about the impact that I had on her family… then, I cried.

It is such a privilege and honour and burden and joy to be able to have an effect on people. I said nothing incredibly innovative or poetic in that poem. I said nothing that the listeners hadn’t heard in one form or another many times.

But it was the right time to Just Start.

I cried because if there is one thing I can say, now until the day I die, is that I made a difference. I didn’t know why I wrote when I started. I don’t know why I write now.

But I do know why it was worth my energy and effort and mind.

It is for Rick Kwissa.

It is for Emily Kwissa.

It is for Nadine Thornhill.

It is for Komi Olafimihan.

It is for Tammy Mackenzie.

It is for that young man who came up to me after the CapSlam Finals in 2009.

It is for everyone who was moved or inspired or soothed or drawn in by something I wrote and performed.

If I never wrote another word I could still say that I mattered.

Thank you Emily, for reminding me.


Now that was a long aside about a two page section in a moving book, but my journey is not what is at stake here.

Just read that book. It is a powerful, moving, well-written story about a brave young woman who lived through a childhood that can barely be called that. I could only dream of being as strong as Emily Kwissa.

There is my plug. Now go buy the book.


I wanted to link to the book here but it seems that Lulu has pulled it due to a complaint by the scumbag and/or his wife.

Lulu, you are in the wrong here. Names have been changed yadda, yadda, yadda. Can he really silence her after all else he has doen to her?

I said I didn’t cry before. I am crying now. In rage.

  1. Mom says:

    Rusty , you have mattered since the minute you were born. Sometimes we forget to let each other know these things. Love Mom

  2. Tammy MacKenzie says:

    Yes, Rusty, you have made a difference. Thank you.
    In addition to your poetry, your blogs posts, like this one, also matter very much.

    I have not yet read Em’s book. It’s close to home and I haven’t been in a good place for it.
    Now, the place I could have gotten it has removed it. Not only silenced Em’s voice, but deprived me of the opportunity to read her story, stretch myself, gain from the strength of another woman, bolster myself with her courage.
    I too am crying with rage. But not only with rage…

    Much love,

  3. rpriske says:

    It is available as a download for Kindle and Kobo… if you don’t have either of those readers, Em can provide the book as a PDF.

    Emily Kwissa will NOT be silenced.

    Check out for full updates on the situation.

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