As I type this I don't even know if I will have to courage to post it. But I want to get it down while it is raw within me.
You may have heard about the book SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. A book many people are calling it 'pornography.' Let me say for the record that I have not yet read the book. Let me also say for the record (whoever among you are keeping such records) that a book about a young girl who is raped and then too ashamed to report the crime is not EVEN CLOSE to my description of pornography.
Here are the links to several much better posts on why this book is so profoundly important. They have said everything I could on the topic, except that they are not me. And they have not shared with you why I am crying even as I type this.
Weronika, literary agent with D4EO, on her post here contemplated the almighty question: WHY I WRITE. Ever since that post I have been trying to come up with my own answer. It seemed like something a writer should be able to put into words. But nothing I wrote explained my profound need for words. Then the blogosphere exploded with controversy over SPEAK and finally I have my answer.
This is why I write.
I am a Christian. There. I said it. (Yes, I that word hard to say sometimes.) And my family considered themselves Christian too. As a child I lived in middle class suburbia, where the fences are mostly picket white and the weeds dare not dip their toes in manicured lawns. My father paid the bills. In advance. My mother cleaned his house and wiped the sticky fingers of his children. I was one of them, though my finger were usually between the pages of a book. I found it the safest place to escape.
The thing was every Sunday my father totted our family off to church. He sang the songs. We sang with him. He smiled. We smiled too.
Yet beyond our weedless lawn, down the hall way of dare-not-be-dirty tiles, stood a cursing man. A large looming man. Yes, THAT man. The Sunday morning, singing, smiling, handshaking man. The man with the bills paid and both his daughters in private school.
Not only did he curse his wife, but he 'spanked' her too. His word for it. Not mine. To this day he says he was simply trying to maintain control. Trying to gain her respect. Whatever way you paint that, it's abuse. And two little girls watched year after year as their mother's beltings healed outside, and tore her apart inside.
Fear is something I knew so well I panicked when the house was still and voices soft.
Not only was my father abusing my mother, but both my sister and I were physically and sexually abused for years.
There were no listening ears because I had no voice. I learnt young that you did not tell because, as my mother said, "you might get taken away." Maybe you think it is strange that a child would rather live with abuse than be taken away, but when that is all you know the fear of losing the parents you love, yes I said love, is overwhelming. So I said nothing. For years and years I said nothing.
In my teens I tried to tell, but no one knew what to do with my story. Such a nice Christian family. My mother went to the church for help and was told she simply needed to be a better wife. (This is why I find the word Christian hard to say sometimes)
To this day my father reuses to acknowledge much of what he did. And my mother says she didn't know my sister and I were abused. But my point in telling you all this is not to judge her or even my father. It is to TELL.
THIS IS WHY I WRITE. Because I think someone needs to hear that this is not where the story ends. THERE IS HOPE.
When I was 16 I met an amazing guy, who stood up to become a man who would hold me through twelve years of marriage while I struggled with the trauma of my past. I knew nothing about becoming someones wife. And motherhood? OH. MY. GOD. along came these beautiful little boys who needed me to hold them when I could barley hold myself.
Finally I curled up in the fetal position inside and all but died emotionally. Dependant on self-harm to regulate my feelings and escaping into my own mind to split off from any reality that made me uncomfortable I knew I was no longer coping. The strong TAB,the girl who made others laugh and listened to all your problems, she was crumbling away before her own eyes.
I was emptiness.
A black hole.
A woman with no idea how to love the little girl within her who had been rejected and abused for so many years. No idea how to mother myself. No idea how to speak about the pain, the guilt and the ever present shame. And I had no idea how to birth the woman I wanted to become. All I knew was that I MY SILENCE WAS KILLING ME!
My husband rang around to find help for me (at my request) and was put in touch with an amazing counselor. (I write about her quite a bit on this blog without using her name.)
When the blackness curdled around I would write my about the 'characters' BEAST my pain, and LITTLE GIRL, and the battles they fought inside me. Daily those words helped claw and scrape my way to healing. I used words and metaphor to paint what those inner landscapes of my heart looked like and as I let those words be seen I saw myself. For the FIRST time. Finally I began to heal.
Words paved a road back to living. And it saved my life. Literally. Those words saved my life. But even this is not why the writing was important. It was later when I could look back at all the places I'd walked that I wondered it other people might see themselves or their pain in the 'characters' I'd created. I wondered if I might share BEAST and LITTLE GIRL with others who needed a way to see their pain and embrace the ignored and scared little person inside themselves. I wonder if my metaphors might be a voice for the voiceless.
I cannot begin to tell you how passionate I am about books like SPEAK. It is a monumental work of importance, because it is one more voice screaming THIS HAPPENS AND IT IS NOT OKAY.
This world needs many honest, brave voices who can put into words what it is like to curl up in the fetal position with the silence killing you from the inside out. People who aren't afraid to write about our fallen, messed up world AND still say THERE IS HOPE.
THIS IS WHY I WRITE. It is why I will listen to honest and raw feedback about my memoir. Write. Re-write. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
If you know pain, or know someone who does, then honestly how can we stand by and let others say that books which cover this subject matter should be banned?
This is why I write.