Twin Cities author and visual artist Christine Stark strives to be a voice for those who have been abused.
Stark will give a reading from her debut novel "Nickels" at 7 p.m. Monday in Charter Hall 201 at Southwest Minnesota State University.
Stark's poetry and nonfiction has been published in several periodicals and anthologies, such as the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Feminist Studies and the Progressive Woman's Magazine. Stark has also won a Pushcart nomination, a McKnight Award for her visual art and a Loft Mentor Series in creative nonfiction. One of her poems, "Momma's Song," was recorded by Fred Ho and the Afro Asian Ensemble and released as a double CD/manga titled "Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon and Momma's Song."
"It was something I loved doing, even when I was young, elementary school," Stark said about writing. She said she had a love for creating characters, stories and other worlds. Stark got away from that during her teen years and then went on to get her degree in English and creative writing and her master of fine arts.
Stark herself was a victim of sexual abuse, which factors into her writing.
"Enormously in a sense of my content," Stark said. "It was a motivating desire to help other people and to bring attention and awareness to these issues."
Stark is a public speaker and advocate for the sexually abused, something that's she done for quite a few years. Through that, Stark said she had a lot of contact with people who have been sexually abused.
"I developed a significant awareness of how people are impacted," she said.
Stark was also a co-researcher on "Garden of Truth," the first research done native prostituted women.
"The way we look at that is the sexual exploitation," she said.
"Nickels" is about a biracial girl named Little Miss So and So, a victim of abuse at the hands of her father, taking her from age 4-1/2 through adulthood. It is written in a series of prose poems, and Stark said in her readings, she does them in five stages - Little Miss So and So at age 5, 10, 10, 20 and 25.
"It shows the progression of her voice," Stark said. It was tricky, she said, because since her main character is a victim of abuse and a survivor of trauma, parts of her consciousness are stunted by the abuse.
"I wanted what she was called (Little Miss So and So) to reflect the visibility of who she was and how she was treated," Stark added. "Her parents didn't appreciate her 'personhood.'"
Although one of the major themes of "Nickels" is sexual violence, Stark doesn't want the book to be distilled down to just that.
"There's humor, love, moments of fun and joy," Stark said.
Stark is currently at work on a memoir and she's also doing a rewrite on a historical fiction novel.
And as for beginning writers, Stark has a few words of advice.
"Read, read, read, I think people don't take that seriously enough," she said. "And connecting with the voice, letting the voice move you forward. I find that to be very important."