In her early twenties, Leila Chatti started bleeding and did not stop. Physicians referred to this bleeding as flooding. In the Qur’an, as in the Bible, the Flood was sent as punishment. The idea of disease as punishment drives this collection’s themes of shame, illness, grief, and gender, transmuting religious narratives through the lens of a young Arab-American woman suffering a taboo female affliction. Deluge investigates the childhood roots of faith and desire alongside their present day enactments. Chatti’s remarkably direct voice makes use of innovative poetic form to gaze unflinchingly at what she was taught to keep hidden. This powerful piece of life-writing depicts Chatti’s journey from diagnosis to surgery and remission in meticulous chronology that binds body to spirit and advocates for the salvation of both. Chatti blends personal narrative, religious imagery, and medical terminology in a chronicle of illness, womanhood, and faith.
Listen to Leila Chatti read her poem “Annunciation” from Deluge:
“To write a series of poems out of extreme illness is a bracing accomplishment indeed. In Deluge… Leila Chatti, born of a Catholic mother and a Muslim father, brilliantly explores the trauma. In a frightening two-year saga of a tumor and the ‘flooding’ it caused, Chatti finds not disassociation but deeper association with her own experience.” —Naomi Shihab Nye, The New York Times
“Chatti turns fear and shame into empowerment in her unflinching debut… [She] translates a gritty, traumatizing experience into a hypnotic, transcendental topography of the human spirit.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Tunisian American poet Leila Chatti’s powerful collection of poems centers her faith, health, embodiment, shame and womanhood.” —Ms. Magazine
“A stunning debut.” —The Millions
“Chatti’s writing is taut, succinct, and gut-punching at moments, with wonderful vocabulary throughout, as the speaker writes of an arc familiar to most girls, yet rarely revealed so explicitly… It is a triumph to have this book out in the world.” —RHINO