Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (born April 21, 1975 in Worcester, Massachusetts) is a Toronto-based poet, writer, educator and social activist. Her writing and performance art focuses on documenting the stories of queer and trans people of color, abuse survivors, mixed-race people and diasporic South Asians and Sri Lankans. A central concern of her work is the interconnection of systems of colonialism, abuse and violence.
Early Life and Education
Piepzna-Samarasinha was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. She attended, but did not graduate from, Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts in New York City.
Her writing has been published in the anthologies Homelands: Women's Journeys Across Race, Time and Place, Bitchfest, We Don't Need Another Wave, Undoing Border Imperialism, Colonize This!, Dangerous Families, Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn, the Lambda Literary Award-nominated Brazen Femme, Without a Net, Geeks, Misfits and Outlaws and A Girl’s Guide To Taking Over the World. In April 2006 Piepzna-Samarasinha published Consensual Genocide (TSAR Publications), her first collection of work.
The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities, which she co-edited with Ching-In Chen and Jai Dulani, was published by South End Press in May 2011. http://www.southendpress.org/2010/items/87941.
Her second book of poetry, Love Cake, was published by TSAR Publications in fall 2011 and won the Lambda Literary Award in 2012.
Piepzna-Samarasinha's freelance journalism can be seen in magazines such as Colorlines, NOW, Xtra, Bitch, Bamboo Girl, Herizons and other publications, where she focuses on documenting LGBT of color artists and activists.
She has been performing spoken word since 1998.
As a spoken word artist she has performed widely in the United States, Canada and Sri Lanka. She has featured at Bar 13, Michelle Tea's RADAR Reading Series, The Loft, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, as well as at universities including Yale, Sarah Lawrence, Oberlin, Swarthmore and the University of Southern California. Her first one woman show, Grown Woman Show, debuted at Toronto's Alchemy Theatre in August 2007.
In her one-woman show, Grown Woman Show Piepzna-Samarasinha talks about being "a queer girl of Sri Lankan descent", and claims that she was a survivor of incest perpetrated by her mother. Grown Woman Show has been performed at at the National Queer Arts Festival, Swarthmore College, Yale University, Reed College and McGill University.
In April 2007, Piepzna-Samarasinha and Maria Cristina Rangel, aka Cherry Galette, launched Mangos With Chili, a "floating cabaret" annual tour of queer and transgender people of color writers, dancers and performance artists, "like Sister Spit, only all brown." Since 2004, she has curated and produced Toronto's Browngirlworld series of spoken word performance nights by queer and trans artists of color. She is also involved with the biannual Asian Pacific Islander Spoken Word and Poetry Summit.
She was the 2009-2010 Artist in Residence at UC Berkeley’s June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. From 2009 to the present, she has been a commissioned performer with Sins Invalid, the national performance organization of queer people with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
Peipzna-Samarashinha is a member of Bad Ass Visionary Healers, a California-based activist healing collective and has an "intuitive counseling" practice, Brownstargirl Tarot.
Piepzna-Samarasinha he teaches writing to LGBT youth at Supporting Our Youth Toronto (SOY), and, with Gein Wong, is an organizer of the Asian Arts Freedom School, a writing, performance and activist education program for Asian/Pacific Islander youth. She is also involved with The Canadian Sri Lankan Women's Action Network, an activist group seeking to promote peace with justice through a feminist lens to end Sri Lanka's 24 year civil war.
Piepzna-Samarasinha is the 2009 Bent Institute Mentor of the Bent Writing Institute of Seattle, WA. Piepzna-Samarasinha is a 2004 recipient of the City of Toronto's Community Service Volunteer Awards.
- "browngirlworld: queergirlofcolor organizing, sistahood, heartbreak", in Colonize This! Young women of color on today's feminism, edited by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman, ISBN 1-58005-067-0
- review of Consensual Genocide, in Canadian Literature, by Indran Amirthanayagam.
- http://www.tsarbooks.com/ConsensualReviews.htm. Missing or empty
- Growing through pain: Theatre/ Looking for that love-fuck family connection, by Fred Kuhr, Xtra!, July 19, 2007, accessed 19 February 2008.
- "City of Toronto: Community Service Volunteer Awards - 2004 winners". Toronto.ca. 2000-10-23. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
- brownstargirl Website
- Poetry example
- Supporting Our Youth (SOY) Website
- Mangos With Chili
- TSAR Publications
- rabble.ca interview by Elizabeth Ruth