What struggles do queer women face in south-central Pennsylvania? Nicole Santalucia, an English professor at Shippensburg University, informs the world about these struggles in her novel “The Book of Dirt.”
“The Book of Dirt,” which Santalucia released Feb. 20, discusses homosexuality, oppression, addiction and more in a series of poems and short stories, according to Santalucia.
“In this collection, lesbians crawl out of the grave that America has been digging since its inception; these are poems of resistance, celebrating marriage, sobriety, and survival,” Santalucia said.
Santalucia’s experience living in south-central Pennsylvania influenced her writing for the book.
“There’s a lack of protections for the LGBTQ+ community.” Santalucia said. The poems introduce the lives of women and what their experiences on surviving addiction, prison, women-hating and homophobia in Pennsylvania.
The novel also covers subjects like queer and lesbian identities, misogyny and objectification of women in Pennsylvania.
“There’s a sense of urgency in our society and it’s my responsibility as a poet to respond.” Santalucia said. “There was no way I could not be in conversation, through poetry, with these issues.”
According to Santalucia, the title of the book is both a literal and a metaphorical interpretation of the issues it discusses.
“It stands for and responds to the small-town American landscape where gun violence, homophobia, misogyny and addiction permeate the lives of so many,” Santalucia said.
The poems in the book represent reprieve and survival. They also meditate on the dirt from the earth and the filth that runs deep through many aspects of American society.
Readers can find the book at nyq.org. Santalucia will hold an open-reading March 26 at the Midtown Scholar bookstore in Harrisburg.