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 Julie Anderson's SECRETS AND LIES poetry book review by Francesca Tysse

Julie Anderson's SECRETS AND LIES poetry book review by Francesca Tysse

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“Tragedy is always laced with beauty, and for me the truth is the only beauty I want to know.”

Julie Anderson who is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Feminine Collective has debuted her poetry book, “Secrets and Lies.” The excerpt is from the preface which introduces the reader to purpose of the creative process she underwent in order to curate the content to share with the world. The poems demonstrate her willingness to be vulnerable and courageous all the while she is unapologetic about the raw stories of her life that unfold throughout the book.

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“Secrets and Lies” narrates the first-person accounts of the former model. Her poems are an expressive form of recovery of her past traumas and experiences of the patriarchal power dynamics, strive to reach the perfection of outer beauty, mental illness, conflictions within the identity of being a mother and more.

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“My incentive was to explore subjects that are marred by stigma. The book is a combination of personal revelations and universal truths we hide.”

“Secrets and Lies” discusses stigmatized topics and women’s issues that have been silenced and construed to fit the heteronormative script of relationships and gender roles. She uses her writing as a creative outlet to tell her story that has been silenced. The radical tool of writing poetry is effective in the means to ignite awareness and important conversations on topics of sexual assault, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, women’s sexual desire and more.

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“Society deems it inappropriate to express our personal demons – I feel that repression creates deep fissures in our emotional wellbeing, poetry allows one to expose themselves without demanding full disclosure. Poetry resonates on a visceral level. The reader finds themselves contemplating the meaning of the words and why those words trigger an emotional response. The door is then opened for discourse that rises from the gut – promoting important dialogue that encourages awareness of issues that underline the human experience of women and society as a whole.”

Anderson’s debut poetry book contains themes of the fickle power of beauty, slut shaming, body dysmorphia, unrequited love, heterosexual and dating scripts and more.

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She explains her creative process of confronting her past through poetry as “...once written in a poetic form, the subject matter of the piece loses its power.” She does not allow her past trauma to consume her or feed into the negative thoughts any longer through the confrontational act of writing. Reflecting on dark and painful moments of her past has brought her closure and permitted her to find meaning within her past afflictions. The agonizing threshold of her past was released through the process of being honest with herself.

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Anderson’s “Secrets and Lies” takes control and ownership of her experiences and bleeds her truth over the series of poems and narrative pieces. She takes control over her negative thoughts, traumatic experiences, distant relationship with herself and others by directly confronting the painful episodes. She is courageous by writing and living out her truth.

The poetry book functions to not only be therapeutic for the author, but also to relate to women of all ages. The experiences of Anderson resonate with readers due to the pervasiveness of the women’s issues discussed. The widespread issues of sexual assault, violence against women, eating disorders and more impact the heterogeneous group of women. Through a mixture of poetry and narrative in “Secrets and Lies,” Anderson explores themes of loss, trauma and healing. The powerful and cathartic storytelling in the poems has the potential to resonate with young women.

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“My goal has always been to share my experiences in full relief – so that women of all ages feel less alone. Hopefully the events shared will empower young women in a way that will inform their innate gut instinct to engage, rendering them impervious to the attempts made by society to weaken their resolve.”

The brave act of Anderson writing so unapologetically has the potential to impact girls and women of all ages to feel less alone, encourage all to speak up and share their stories and ignite a stronger bond for all women to fight against the patriarchy for a better tomorrow.  

The poems reflect the relationship that Anderson has formed with herself over her life journey and through her platonic and romantic relationships. As a former model, Anderson has experienced the brutality of the fashion industry that has damaged her self-esteem, sense of self, self-worth and relationships with friends, family and significant others.

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She reflects on self-worth, self-esteem and body image throughout “Secrets and Lies.” Her value has always been from outside voices instead of from within which caused her to self-objectify; thus, negatively impact her relationship to her body to the extent she formed a distant relationship with herself.

Anderson discusses her relationship with her body and how it affects how she connects with loved ones. She believes that romantic and platonic relationships are mirrors of the inner self. She expands on that belief by stating that, “We accept what we believe we deserve, in all facets of our lives.” This aspect of storytelling resonates due to it being a part of the overall human experience: we all crave dearly to be liked, loved and valued by all. It is important to reflect and reshape our ways of thinking in order to acknowledge the negative mindset and focus on how we feel due to our actions and not the affirmations of others.

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In the end, “Secrets and Lies” encourages women to keep going and acknowledge the societal pressures of being in a relationship in order to be deemed successful and valued, striving for the idealized body shape and beauty appearance. In her final poem, “After the Breakdown,” Anderson confesses that she had to fall apart to understand her capabilities, strength, divine femininity and power. She inspires women to reflect on the past, understand what you learned from the experiences and admire the women that they have become throughout the journey of life. “If I had not lost my mind, I would not be here right now, telling you that you can do it too, just as I have done.”

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