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:: M I A  K I R S H N E R :  I  L I V E  H E R E ::
by Nicole Powers
November 24, 2008

The L Word's Mia Kirshner takes the plight of refugees and the displaced personally. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and the daughter of a father born in a displaced persons camp in Germany shortly after World War II and a mother who's a Bulgarian Jewish refugee, it would be hard not to.

Born and raised in Toronto, Mia studied Russian and English Literature at Montrealís prestigious McGill University, before taking on the role of actress.

Never one to shy away from difficult subject matter, Mia has a fearless reputation in Hollywood, taking on numerous sexually challenging roles. She portrayed a dominatrix with psychic abilities in acclaimed Quebec filmmaker Denys Arcand's first English language movie, Love and Human Remains, she was a mysterious bisexual assassin in Fox's 24, played the title role of murder victim and women whose sexuality was the source of much speculation in Brian De Palma's Black Dahlia, and is a regular on the small screen as Jenny from The L Word, a Showtime drama based around the lives of a group of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women living in WeHo.

The recurring themes of female sexuality and empowerment, and the plight of those displaced by conflict collided, when, over a period of seven years and with the support Amnesty International, Mia journeyed around the world to gather the stories of women and children who were driven from their homes. From the war in Chechnya and the ethnic cleansing in Burma to those affected by globalization in Mexico and AIDS in Malawi, Mia tells the tales of individuals would otherwise not have a voice in a compelling and beautiful new book, I Live Here.

Below, Mia shares one of the stories from her journey, which came a little too close to her home.

"I chose this passage, because there is nothing extraordinary about what happened to me as this happens all over the world to most women on different levels. I have no shame in this anymore and am thankful that it is one of the reasons that made me want to put this book together."

Mia Kirshner, November 2008

Mae Sot. Thailand. Hotel Room. Night.

The bathroom light is on, MTV Asia on mute.

Memory has caught me by the throat.

I am walking along Patpong Road. It is a sepia flurry of sound and image. The American tourists are wide-eyed and slurring, hiding their traveller's checks in defiant fanny packs. I see them taking digital pictures of young girls standing outside of karaoke booths, flirty, their wanting breasts on offer.

Patpong Road. The famous street in Bangkok where friends of mine once saw a girl shoot Ping-Pong balls out of her vagina. "One after the other," they told me. "Can you believe that vaginas can do that?"

Now I know where those girls come from.

I can't help but recall my own first encounters with a sexual underworld. The illicit thrill of going to the sex shows and the strip clubs. Sitting in the porn arcade giving a hand-job to the guy who sat in the back of my Russian lit class. Open-mouthed women on smudged screens sucking multiple dicks, the sounds of men jerking off in their own private booths - at the time, all of this was liberating. A big fuck-you to being a nice girl.

We would leave these places and walk along Boulevard Saint-Laurent, snow and ice making red tic-tac-toe patterns on our faces. It was a speedy feeling, as though we had crossed into another, more secret world.

I would go back to my dorm room alone. The familiar odors of condensed milk, pizza, du Maurier Lights, and pot, while the sounds of Portishead and Nirvana lulled me to sleep.

At the time, it didn't even occur to me to wonder about the women in the porn videos. Why were they there? Where did they come from? Did they come from a family like mine?

Flickers of shadow and light on the ceiling of my darkened hotel room.


We are sitting against the wall of the brothel, she and I. It's late afternoon and we're whispering - she can barely speak.

She is 17 and terrified. She wants me to know that she has just started working in the brothel and that she is a very good student in school. She is planning to quit and cross the bridge back into Burma.

Her eyes.

I recognize those eyes. Eyelashes that protect you from seeing too much, and keep others from doing the same.

I was 17 when the man handed me the joint and said, "Like this, watch me. Inhale. Hold it in your lungs. Now breathe out. Close your eyes." It is laced pot. And then the floor is melting and sliding into the speaker. We are dancing in an after-hours club in someone's row house, and then we are in an apartment. His apartment. His face. Water that tastes like mercury sliding down my throat. His fists, tight, grabbing my hair, pushing me down, down, down.

My mother was waiting for me the next morning, her hair like a wayward hedge. She made me look in the mirror. My shirt was turned inside out. White crust on my face, the fly of my leatherette pants ripped.

There is nothing unusual about my story. But it was the last time, until now, that I examined these things so closely.


I Live Here was produced in association with creative directors Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons (whose credits include Adbusters, TV Turnoff, Buy Nothing Day, and the Blackspot Sneaker) and writer James MacKinnon.

Proceeds from I Live Here will help Amnesty International continue their fight for the rights of women, children, refugees and the displaced. Mia has also co-founded the I Live Here Foundation, which establishes writing programs in war-torn and devastated areas, in an effort to continue to tell the untold stories of those who are silenced.

Excerpts from I Live Here courtesy of Pantheon Books. Text copyright (c) 2008 by Mia Kirshner, J.B. MacKinnon, Paul Shoebridge, and Michael Simons. Published by Pantheon Books. Printed with kind permission of Pantheon Books.

The L Word Online has been designed by Oz and Slicey.  Unique images designed by Oz.  Site maintained by Oz & Slicey.  This website is intended to be fun and informative, and was created with respect to show appreciation for the women and men involved in the creation of TV's first real lesbian drama.  This site is not endorsed, sponsored, or affiliated with Showtime Networks Inc., the television series "The L Word," or any person involved in the making of the show.  No copyright infringement is intended.  Images and other borrowed content are copyright their respective owners.  Credit is given where due.  All original content is the sole property of  the creators of The L Word Online copyright October 2003.