• Where It Hurts

Where It Hurts


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978-1-926455-84-6 | 2017 April | 128 Pages


Where It Hurts is a highly charged collection of personal essays, haunted by loss, evoking turbulent physical and emotional Canadian landscapes. Sarah de Leeuw’s creative non-fiction captures strange inconsistencies and aberrations of human behaviour, urging us to be observant and aware. The essays are wide in scope and expose what—and who—goes missing.

With staggering insight, Sarah de Leeuw reflects on missing geographies and people, including missing women, both those she has known and those whom she will never get to know. The writing is courageously focused, juxtaposing places and things that can be touched and known—emotionally, physically, psychologically—with what has become intangible, unnoticed, or actively ignored. Throughout these essays, de Leeuw's imagistic memories are layered with meaning, providing a survival guide for the present, including a survival that comes with the profound responsibility to bear witness.

• Finalist for the 2017 Governor General's Literary Awards—Non-Fiction
• Finalist for the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize at the 2018 BC Book Prizes
• Click to read an interview on CBC Books
• Click to read an interview in the Prince George Citizen
•  Click to read an interview in the Vancouver Sun

“Sarah de Leeuw's Where It Hurts is thoughtful and brave, arresting and powerful. The worlds she details in these pages are little-seen, galvanic, and occasionally bleak, yet the reading experience is a transformative one.”
~ Craig Davidson, author of Cataract City and Precious Cargo

“Sarah de Leeuw knows that a title is a promise and she delivers. Where it Hurts promises to be painful and honest without being tragic. These are not traditional essays, they are power-driven narratives documenting the lives of many women. Accusing the world of negligence, viciousness without articulating the accusation, it is there, under every black inked word and every laugh. We are not simply a reader but rather something of an accomplice. As we read, we document how many times we have told such a story and laughed. We don’t feel guilty, but we do want some kind of epiphany and transformation by the time we see the end of the collection. Powerful strategy and a great read.”
~ Lee Maracle, author of Celia's Song and Memory Serves

“Sarah de Leeuw spins the grit of life—trauma, missing women, the decay of a relationship—into moving, beautiful prose. Where it Hurts illuminates the tragedies, triumphs and poetry of marginalized northern landscapes.”
~ Emily Urquhart, author of Beyond the Pale

“Stark, unsentimental, but tender-hearted nonetheless: Sarah de Leeuw's essays prove that there is beauty in hardship, and moments of real warmth in a place known to be so cold."
~ D.W. Wilson, author of Ballistics and Once You Break a Knuckle

Where It Hurts is a mappa mundi, a map of geographical and spiritual space, and Sarah de Leeuw is an extraordinary cartographer, boldly taking the reader into known and unknown territory.”
~ Theresa Kishkan, author of Winter Wren and Mnemonic: A Book of Trees

“De Leeuw speaks passionately for the marginalized, whether it’s a First Nations woman forced to hitchhike the Highway of Tears, a homeless man watching his hotel room burn up, or a 15-year-old girl working a truck stop in an asbestos mining town. She draws us into the fabric of towns the guidebooks don’t recommend, showing us ourselves woven into it, linking a failing marriage to a toxic landfill. Or the serial killer Clifford Olson and his aftermath to the explosion of Mount St. Helens. We feel how much it matters that our threads cross.”
~ Meredith Quartermain, author of I, Bartleby and Rupert’s Land

“Sarah de Leeuw is a triple threat. More accurately, her highly accomplished and incredibly varied body of work reveals that she’s an octuple or nonuple threat, but triple threat sounds better.”
~ Amber Dawn, Room Magazine's 17 Books to Read in 2017

“The breadth of the insight and language here is unsurprising.”
~ Brian Lynch, The Georgia Straight

“In her poignant prose, those who suffer are honoured and memorialized.”
~ Patricia Dawn Robertson, Quill & Quire

“Brew a coffee. Sit by the window. Put on some sturdy shoes and know that 'Where it Hurts' is also where it heals.”
~ Emily Bulmer, Northword Magazine

“Like 'Soft Shoulder,' the rest of the essays in Where it Hurts are tremendously moving. Beyond merely inviting empathy, they invite us to consider the wounds we don’t know are there.”
~ Melanie Brannagan Frederiksen, Winnipeg Free Press

“The essays in Where It Hurts are deeply felt, original, and a moving requiem for lives extinguished too early to have left a trace.”
~ Lauren Kirshner, Room

“In Where It Hurts, de Leeuw skillfully reconciles her background as an academic—she’s an associate professor at the University of Northern British Columbia and a researcher into the issues that affect marginalized communities—and a poet. What she chooses to say is intimately tied and ultimately revealed by the way she chooses to say it.”
~ Joel Yanofsky, The Malahat Review

“Perhaps the most productive way to read the essays about missing and murdered women and children is to see them as crucial conversation starters. Here, ideally yet uncomfortably, readers become responsible for what they witness; they must face these cruelties and find ways to move forward.”
~ Susie DeCoste, Canadian Literature

“... the world needs more writers who are unafraid to write in ways that help us see as much and as clearly as Sarah de Leeuw does.”
~ Heidi Greco, BC BookLook

“With prose precise and potent, Where It Hurts memorializes those who have disappeared too soon from the landscapes they considered home.”
~ Sarah Ens, River Volta Review of Books

You know this game, right?

It’s played at dinner parties?

After a few glasses of wine?

When we’ve left the kitchen and the dining room and we’re all sitting in the living room and there’s been three-in-a-row of those awkward conversation lulls, when saying anything seems too loud so we’re all busy saying nothing at all, looking interested in the carpet?

The game where you try to figure out the lie in three guesses or less?

Like this.

I say: In my life I have eaten bear, shark, raw sea-urchin egg, ox-heart, seal, and caribou.

If you guess which one I haven’t eaten, if you catch my lie, it’s your turn to fabricate a story. To tell an untruth.

Mostly people guess bear. Especially if I’m in a city. Bear! You can’t have eaten bear!

That’s wrong. I’ve eaten bear. Quite a lot of bear, actually. Shanks of black bears pulled from the backs of 4x4 pickups, hunks of skinless slopping red flesh chucked onto stomped-down cardboard boxes thrown flat to keep the blood off the paint of the truck bed. Being hauled to the dump by trophy hunters. Meat rescued by my dad. Hundreds of pounds of meat thumped onto the kitchen counter and hacked into manageable wet slabs, chasing off the cats mewling at the fatty scent, wrapping it in newsprint, turfing it into the freezer. Turned into stew. Then fed to the dogs when it became too frostbitten for even our hungry mouths, a strange grey ice-mold that sometimes the dogs would pause over, sniff at before swallowing back in loud gulps.

If no one can guess what I haven’t eaten, I get to lie again.

I could say: I have travelled to Seoul, Paris, Sofia, Istanbul, Tokyo, Delhi, and Chicago. One is a lie. It’s everyone’s job to figure out which place I’ve never set foot in.

I like the game. I like all the strange truths people keep hidden inside them. How easily a lie can be buried in such plain sight.