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Laina Dawes

June 12, 2013

Laina Dawes

The metal scene has always been a boys club. Ever tried to step foot in the pit at a metal show, ladies? Well, Laina Dawes, music and cultural critic and concert photographer, knows all about it because she’s been in love with metal since she was a kid. In her book, What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy MetalDawes examines music’s role in establishing communities and who is allowed to be a part of the communities that flourish in genres like punk and metal. The problem is some of these communities have some marginalizing definitions about what their fans should be like.

Laina’s writings and photography can be found in the journal Coon Bidness, the anthology Marooned: The Next Generation of Desert Island Discs and various print, online publications and radio programs such as, The Wire,, Bitch magazine, NPR, the Toronto Star, Exclaim! Metal,, CBC Radio, and Metal Edge magazine.  She also runs the blog Writing is Fighting and is a contributing editor for’s Race & Ethnicity section. She  resides in Toronto, Canada.

Basically, anyone can (and should be) a fan of Judas Priest. Laina Dawes says so and we couldn’t agree more.

1. What is your hometown?

 I’m from the outskirts of Kingston, Ontario, a small city about three hours east of Toronto, where I live now.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

 On a good day, Martha Washington from the comic book series. On a bad day, Pecola Breedlove from The Bluest Eye.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

 Oy. C.H. Pounder. I’m a big fan of the TV show The Shield and she is an amazing character actor.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

 Anything written by Toni Morrison and Hubert Selby Jr. I also love Things Fall Apart, by Chiuna Achebe.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

 I’m reading my friend’s book, Do You Have Anything To Declare? By Kevin Stewart-Panko and Kevin Smith. It’s touring tales from metal bands who have to cross international borders. It’s funny and a must-read for indie musicians. I also just finished reading Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry, which was really great. I only read one fiction book a year. 

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

 Right now, Cathedral’s The Last Spire and Lesbian’s Forestelevision. I highly reccomend both.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

 I’m ashamed to admit this (but obviously I am) Precious. It was Moni’ique’s performance near the end of the film that got to me. The book was better, though.

8.  Cat person or dog person?

 Definitely cats. I have a precious little boy, Huey, who is the light of my life. My awesome parents foster cats, so its a family thing. 

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?


10.    How do you define sin?

 Lying to oneself. And doing something that will hinder you from having pride in yourself.

11.    How do you define virtue?

 Being true to yourself. Doing what you want to do, when you want to do it.

12.   Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

 “She Tried.” I think I’ll be cremated, as the thoughts of maggots going through by eyeballs makes me sick, but if not, just a standard grey marble headstone.

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

 Osa Atoe, founder of the Shotgun Seamstress ‘Zine. My friend Kim Kelly, who is a incredible metal journalist and PR maven.

Writing is Fighting

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