It’s a treat day for my lovely blog readers.
Today we chat with Emmanuella and her inspiration behind her latest book ‘The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder’.
So, let’s get to it.
Who is Emmanuella?
Emmanuella Hristova was born in Oakland, California and grew up in the Bay Area. She is the third daughter to Bulgarian parents who immigrated to California shortly before she was born. She began drawing at the ripe age of four and studied fine arts for five years in high school. There, she received many art accolades including a Congressional award for her piece Boy in Red in 2009. In 2015, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley. She began writing poetry at age twenty-four when she was in graduate school. She earned her Master’s in Education from the same alma mater in 2017. Emmanuella spent two years as an English teacher in Richmond, California. During that time, she self-published her first poetry collection: The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder. Currently, she is writing her first novel. She speaks English, Bulgarian, Spanish and is now learning French.
What’s the book about?
“The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder” is a collection of poems that explores a tumultuous year of love, heartbreak, and all kinds of unimaginable loss. Emmanuella’s debut poetry book documents the birth and death of a relationship, and the death of her sister. Each poem is an emotional time-stamp that plunges the reader into the depths of the author’s feelings as they burgeon and wane. The book reads like a diary and chronicles the boundaries of the things that we all feel: passion, heartache, and pain that gives way to hope.
So, what did you personally learn in the process of writing this book that surprised you?
A surprising outcome of sexism is that it negatively affects men too. Patriarchal ideas that construct gender roles and subsequent societal expectations constrict male emotional and personal expression.
For example, society defines women as the more emotional gender, thereby expecting their emotionality while constricting men to emotional repression. In addition, because traditional notions of masculinity dominate that of femininity, emotional expression is often seen as a sign of weakness. Especially when experienced by a man.
Have you ever heard that argument that women shouldn’t be or aren’t world leaders because they’re more emotional? This argument exists because of the subtext: emotional expression is female, a male is better than female, therefore emotional expression is less than or weak. And God forbid a man to be “weak” as this contradicts a principle of hegemonic masculinity: that men dominate over women because they are “stronger”. Thus, gender expectations create a dogma that men are not supposed to express their emotions. They are taught from a young age, to suppress them. Men don’t cry. Crying is for little girls. Crying is for pussies. Even when you’re sad.
There is a tiny ounce of truth to the difference in emotional expression between the genders. In most female brains, the corpus callosum is larger than in most men’s brains. The corpus callosum is the bridge between the right and left hemispheres; it links the emotional parts to the linguistic. But warrants communication differences, not lack of emotions. What this signifies is that for most women, communicating about feelings is easier as there are more messages passing between the two spheres. It may be more difficult for most men to communicate their feelings—they’re at a loss for the words. But this doesn’t mean emotional bankruptcy. Men are still emotional beings, as much as women are. Feeling and expressing emotions is just a part of being human, and for society to mandate how and why we are to express ourselves solely based on our gender is both counterintuitive and mentally destructive.
In the United States, studies show that older men become, their circle of platonic male friendships decreases. Because men are not supposed to express their emotions, especially among each other, they’re forced to seek an emotional outlet through a female partner. This is both expected and encouraged for men, who often state that their best friend is their wife. On the contrary, women often have a female best friend separate from their husband.
Thus, women enjoy plenty of emotional outlet through romantic and platonic relationships with both genders.
However, it’s here that men are the unlucky ones. Decreased friendships and human contact lead to higher rates of depression, violence, and suicide. Which, is evident in the Western world as men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Sexism and hegemonic masculinity can affect so much more than mental health. Hegemonic masculinity demands compulsory heterosexuality. As a result, alternate forms of gender expression and sexuality are often discriminated against and marginalized. No homo, bro.
It’s tough to be a girl. But under the patriarchy, it’s tough to be a boy too.
Why did you decide to write a book on this topic?
upon walking down the street
UC Berkeley needs to cool it down
with the construction—not because of
the noise, the smell, or the blatant
inconvenience when walking; but rather,
because only by walking
to the bus stop on southside I pass by
three construction crews, on a daily basis.
All eating their lunches,
who stop simultaneously to watch
me walk from one corner of the
block to the other, leering, as if
they’ve never seen a woman before, as if
my existence was solely for
their viewing pleasure. As if
the entire sum of my being as a
human was my breasts, legs and ass.
When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, a young woman I used to mentor gave me a green Moleskin notebook. She told me to document all of my adventures. My undergraduate graduation characterized many changes in my life, and at the time I was working out my own definition of feminism. I decided to start writing a book about feminism and Christianity. But what began as short musings about sexism jotted down on the BART train, eventually became woeful poems about oppression, harassment, and assault.
And then, two months later, I fell in love for the first time. I never decided to write my poetry collection; it came out of me, rather. I documented the relationship from beginning to end, birth to death. I wrote to express my feelings and sentiments. It wasn’t intentional. Pent-up emotions swelled up inside of me and they didn’t have any place to spill other than onto blank pages. Eventually, that green Moleskin became a chronological account of one of the darkest periods of my life.
What’s the book about and who would benefit or like to read it?
The poems in The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder is about love, heartbreak, depression, and grief. The collection begins with the relationship—falling in love, hesitation, turmoil. Eventually, I chronicle the end of the relationship and dwell on the breakup. Two weeks later I find out my sister is dying from stage 4 cancer. And depression unfolds as a result.
Although I began writing about sexism, I chose to leave those poems for the final chapter. There, I tackle sexual harassment, sexual assault, and oppression. The poems move through all the emotions I’ve felt as a result—torment, sadness, anger and reveling glee. The final chapter is dedicated to grieving and healing women:
For crying girls everywhere,
hiding in the bathroom stall.
May you find your healing.
This chapter begins with one of my favorite poems to read aloud: upon diluting myself, which is about how women are forced to suppress their identities in order to navigate a male-dominated world. Thus, “diluting” their spirits in the process:
upon diluting myself
I am a woman.
I dilute myself in order to survive;
I suppress myself, recoiling into a tight ball
to not threaten the more powerful sex
so they don’t realize that
the most beautiful part of me is
my brain and not my body,
my thoughts and not my tits,
my heart and not my hair,
my feelings and not my face.
The chapter continues with February 15th: men make me feel uncomfortable, which is about being touched without consent or solicited on the street. The next poem, upon walking down the street, was the first entry in my green Moleskin.
upon being a woman is the longest poem in the whole collection, and it’s the most personal. It’s a documented account of (almost all) sexual harassment and assault I’ve experienced since I was a child. When I was still starting out in graduate school, I read an anonymous poem on Huffington Post about a woman recounting the first time she was coerced into giving a blow job and vomited. She must have been six years old. This poem compelled me to write my own, but I started recounting backward. I begin as an adult, and every oppressive or violent account with a male makes me feel smaller until you reach five-year-old me. I’ve never been able to read this one out loud, it’s that personal.
February 15th, do they make makeup for crying girls? follows. This poem is about the right to grieve: whether it be about loss, heartbreak or oppression. Women don’t need to smile all the time or be pleasant. We can cry, and we will cry damn it:
Do they make makeup for crying girls?
The kind of mascara I can
wear to my sister’s funeral,
where I don’t have to fear
the black tracks running down
the smooth skin of my
cheeks, marking the years I
will spend crying for her absence.
The final poem, here’s to the woman, is the second poem in the collection written in response to International Women’s Day. This one leaves wallowing in the past. It looks forward to the future: one in which the woman is recognized. It’s a reflection of my current voice which includes admonition, anger, and strength:
here’s to the woman
One day in the year cannot
truly honor and recognize the amount of
unappreciated work that women
actually contribute to the world.
But we can try; so,
here’s to the woman:
Here’s to the single mother
working 1+ jobs to support her family;
Here’s to the woman pioneering
in a male-dominated field
while facing discrimination,
belittlement and/or harassment
and still shows up;
Here’s to the woman who
gave up a career to raise her children;
Here’s to the woman who
put off starting a family
to pursue a career;
Here’s to the grandmother raising
her grandchildren in retirement;
Here’s to the mother who
left everything in her home country to
provide a better life for her children;
Here’s to the sexual assault survivor who’s
asked, but what were you wearing?
Here’s to the woman who
pursues an education—despite the
the physical danger it may put her in;
Here’s to the woman who’s
told she’s not
she wasn’t asking you;
Here’s to the woman who’s
told she’s too pretty to do that—
but does it anyway.
Here’s to the woman who
speaks out against sexism
while being challenged
and still speaks;
Here’s to the woman whose
societal contributions are overlooked
because she was not born a man.
Here’s to the woman.
Links to my book:
Barnes & Noble
Social media links & website:
My website: http://www.ehristova.com
My Insta: http://www.instagram.com/emmy_speaks
Amazon author page: http://amazon.com/author/ehristova
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/ehristova