a valentine for ms. asha bandele

asha bandele


dear ms. bandele,

It is one of my first trips back to New York, and I’m in my mom’s apartment. She and I are on the sofa in her living room, and I’m mindlessly channel surfing, my mother telling me to just pick a program and stay on it.

And I catch the very tail end, I mean, the very last 30 seconds of an interview with you. You’re talking about your book, The Prisoner’s Wife. There’s a black background behind you. What I remember are your eyes. What I remember is your voice.

And right then, all I know is that I have to read that book, your book. It becomes a mission the next few days.

When I finally get a copy of the book in your hands, I read it one sitting. I cannot stop.

“This is a love story, the one not generally discussed in polite or even public conversation. But if there’s one thing that I do know about myself, it’s that I know I hate secrets, that secrets mean shame, and that I am not now, nor will I ever be, ashamed that I am a woman who has loved someone, and that someone has loved me.”

I read your words for the first time and held my breath.

When my husband was deported from Chicago back to Mexico in April of 2001, I felt completely and profoundly alone. Ashamed. Angry. I didn’t have the words for talking about my husband, myself, and his deportation.

With your book in my hands, I was no longer alone. I was more willing to face what I felt ashamed about. My anger started to change shape.

After that trip to New York, I returned to Mexico and my husband, your book in my knapsack, a gift from the universe. The words about myself, my husband, and his deportation came later, but they finally started to appear.

The Prisoner’s Wife is my string of rosary beads. I turn to it in times of fierce need, and times of real joy. I turn to it when I’m afraid of what I’m writing, but I know that I need to push through the fear. The Prisoner’s Wife was in my bag the night that I performed my show with the neo-Nazis in the front row, and I held it in my shaking hands after I got back to the dressing room.

I turn to your book, I will always turn to your book, when I need inspiration from the masterful rhythm and artistry of your words.

So today I want to send you an early valentine across the wires, my heart in my hand. In reading your books that came after The Prisoner’s Wife, I know that your life journey has taken you down other paths. You and I are both living out new stories, different chapters in our lives.

But today I sing out loud to the rooftops how grateful I am for your continued courage, artistry, faith and love.

Thank you, ms. bandele. Happy Valentine’s Day.


6 thoughts on “a valentine for ms. asha bandele

  1. Giselle, How lovely to read your tribute and asha’s blessing in reply. A great reminder of the power of words to connect, to empower, to share joy and love and strength — which is what your words have done and will continue to do for others as well. Un abrazo, Karen


  2. Beloved,

    Yours may be the most beautiful valentine I have ever received. I thank you with everything in me for writing this, for the encouragement it offered to keep trying, despite lingering fears and often present discomforts, to keep trying to speak truth as I know it.

    I wish your more love than loss, more joy than challenge, more laughter and always more peace.

    Love survives, asha


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