I believe writing is the process of enacting a vision. The stories of women’s lives form the foundation of the things I write about. I believe my job as a writer is to bear witness. A society can enact all the laws it wants, but change happens at a personal level. Stories inspire people to think and change. To me this is what matters, that through my specific experience, writing can connect me to something larger than myself.
The Shape of a Hundred Hips is a memoir that juxtaposes dance and sexual assault recovery that takes the reader into the living room, bedroom, and dance class, and places under the lens each body part, each private and public story. It’s a book at the nexus of many contemporary concerns: campus sexual assault, working class families, female identity and artistic expression.
Praise for The Shape of a Hundred Hips
“Extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, The Shape of a Hundred Hips is an inherently fascinating read that is as informative as it is thoughtful and thought provoking.”–Midwest Book Review
“In this well-written memoir…are many issues in this book that women face every day, wrapped in the author’s descriptions of hip scarves, full skirts and costumes with shiny adornments — how we feel about our bodies, our relationship to body image and sex, the shame that follows rape, how little girls like the author were raised to be “nice” and do housework when they wanted freedom. Who knew belly dance could lead to such wisdom?”—Pioneer Press
“Frank and fascinating.”—Kelly Cherry, author of Girl in a Library: On Women Writers and the Writing Life (nonfiction) and Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer (poems)
“This book chronicles a young woman’s life in unflinching, poetic prose. Beautifully crafted, it is vivid, honest and astute. We see how the healing powers of dance are instrumental in the author's courageous and relentless path towards self-healing.”—Elizabeth Artemis Mourat, MA, MSW, LCSW-C
“A fascinating narrative whose emotional weight keeps gathering power and will move readers in unexpected and subtle ways.”—David Mura, author of Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei
“As Patricia trains, strains, performs, and dances alone as one might meditate or pray, Cumbie transforms her life, her marriage, and her sense of self, emerging with a gratitude that is contagious.”—Patricia Weaver Francisco, author of Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery
"The Shape of a Hundred Hips" is as inspiring as it is engaging, chronicling the author's journey from conflict to confidence in her (newly shimmying) body. This testimony to the power of movement, community and self-acceptance through belly dance resonates like the tinkling of a well-tuned pair of finger cymbals!—Anne Thomas Soffee, author of Snake Hips
“The reader will shimmy with Patricia, tip and roll their shoulders, and release in time with her as she shares her love and heartbreak on the page. Her words move on the page much like a belly dancer undulating on the dance floor.”—Elizabeth DiGrazia, author of House of Fire (memoir)
“Insightful, reflective, inquisitive… The Shape of a Hundred Hips is a book of journeys illustrated by vignettes of Patricia Cumbie’s life stories. She shares how the belly dance ignited her passion, taught her many life lessons, guided her into empowered womanhood and friendship and love, after years of feeling unheard and unseen, healed her after sexual trauma, and acknowledged the beauty of her body and her being.”—Paulette Rees-Denis, author of Tribal Vision: A Celebration of Life Through Tribal Belly Dance, Transformational Lifestyle Coach, and Global Dance Instructor, and innovator of Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance ®.
Where People Like Us Live is a young adult novel set in a Great Lakes blue-collar industrial town, where displaced teen Libby Gilbert now lives. She meets Angie Bonar, a girl with whom she develops a crushing bond. The two girls set in motion a friendship that exposes disturbing secrets that change everything.
Praise for Where People Like Us Live
“[Cumbie’s] characters have a dignity and innate courage that readers will not soon forget.” —ALA Booklist
“A gritty and honest exploration of sexuality, coercion, friendship and power.” —School Library Journal