‘Letter To My Body’ brings voices from around the state to the Iowa City Public Library

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Letter To My Body

Iowa City Public Library, Room D — Monday, April 1, 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.


Letter To My Body, a unique exhibit about how people perceive their physical selves, will be on display at the Iowa City Public Library on Monday.

“The letters highlight sexual harassment and violence, gender norms, sexism, and taught beliefs,” according to Monsoon Asians and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity, the group that organized the exhibit.

Monsoon works with members of Iowa’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. The nonprofit has offices in Iowa City and Des Moines.

“I hope that the public that comes in and reads these letters finds something that resonates with them, maybe finds something that they felt before,” said Leah Soweid, multilingual advocate and outreach coordinator for Monsoon. “That’s what I like about writing the most: it teaches people, and it makes them think about things that maybe they hadn’t thought about before.”

As part of its community outreach programs, Monsoon prepares an annual project each April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Soweid told Little Village that while working on projects for this year, she experimented with a theme centered on the word “body.”

“Things that have to do with violence have a lot to do with bodily agency or lack thereof,” Soweid explained. “I’m not specifically a huge writer myself, but I feel like writing is very good medium for people to access because there are things that are more freeing and expressive to put on paper than to say out loud.”

Soweid began reaching out to community members in Iowa City in mid-February, asking people from a wide variety of backgrounds to submit letters addressed to their bodies. The writing prompt was left vague, Soweid said, to allow contributors to interpret it in as they wished. Submissions could be signed or anonymous, in English or other languages, according to the wishes of the writer.

Working with other members of Monsoon, Soweid was able to expand the letter-writing project throughout the state. The results, she said, were more than 200 body-themed letters, expressing a wide variety of emotions on topics including sexual violation, body image and gender identity.

“Regardless of their tone, they’re all really powerful because I think individual voices really shine through in each and every one of them,” Soweid said.

The public will be able to read the letters in Room D of the ICPL on Monday, between 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Anyone interested can also contribute a letter to the exhibit.

Following its showing in Iowa City, Letter To My Body will be exhibited in public libraries in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Waukee and Ames.

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More information about Letter To My Body can be found on Monsoon’s Facebook page.

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