Saturday, March 08, 2008
the best book i'd somehow never heard of
Yesterday, I finished this book: The Obsidian Mirror, by Louise Wisechild.
It took me close to two weeks to finish it.
Not because it's particularly long - it's typical memoir length, a little under 300 pages.
Not because it's intellectually dense or particularly difficult - it's well-written, but in a perfectly accessible way.
Not even because I wasn't dedicated to reading it -- there were few days I didn't have the book with me, in my bag, few days that I didn't pick it up and have a hard time putting it down.
No, it took me so long to finish this book because it was just that intense. Because there were entire chapters I didn't want to forget, so I finished, then went back 20 pages to re-read it. Even the preface (by Laura Davis) and new introduction (by the author) were read twice.
This is a book I took out from the Smith library. I don't really want to return it. I'm now torn as to where to spend the remainder of my book budget for March; I had planned on buying Writing As A Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo (about which I've got another post in the works for), but I also need this book as an addition to my library.
Why am I so enamoured with this book?
Part of it, I don't deny, is because I see myself in it, in what Wisechild is writing. I see my healing journey reflected in this memoir of her healing journey. It's my own journey, just as hers was her own, but it's a journey that reminds me that even in these hardest parts, I'm not the only one who's ever been there. Reminds me that not only have other people been there, they've gotten through it. That's huge.
But the bigger part of why I'm kind of astonished by how much I love this book is this:
It tells the story that nobody else tells. It's brutally honest about what "healing from sexual abuse" means.
I've been bitter about the myth of the Survivor, about the rhetoric around surviving / healing for a long time. Most books, stories, movies, and whatever else I've ever read or seen have emphasized the telling as The Healing Moment. Have given the impression, intentionally or not, that telling, breaking that silence, is the thing you need to do to "heal." Made it seem like healing comes automatically afterwards -- as in, speak out about the abuse, call it what it is (rape, abuse, incest, etc), tell your therapist, confront your abuser(s), and suddenly, you're healed! You're officially a Survivor!
Except...that's not how it works.
Maybe for some people, it really is that simple. But not, I don't think, for most. And certainly not for me.
Which isn't to say that the initial telling isn't important - it is, it's vitally important, and essential to starting that healing process. But that's what it is: a start. Of a process. Not the be-all and end-all of healing.
So what I love most about Wisechild's book is that it's honest about the up and down (and down and down and up and down) nature of the healing process. It's honest about it being a process. It's up-front and frank about the things she's healing from, without inaccurate metaphors and allusions to abuse. It's real, and it's true. It's not beautiful. It ends beautifully, in a very healed & still healing place, but she doesn't gloss over the ugly, ugly, painful parts of healing. In this book is so much truth, so much truth that's so often overlooked or (intentionally? subconsciously?) left out of the larger rhetoric of surviving, the larger myth of the Survivor.
And, to be totally honest, another reason I've developed such an attachment to this book is because it triggered a lot of things for me. Her story hit places in me that I needed to uncover. Places I'd been somewhat intentionally avoiding, things I'd been resisting. It hurt, to read it. It was painful. But it wasn't an unpleasant pain. It was a pain that opened, that triggered the pain of opening. It reminded me a lot of myself, I saw myself reflected often in her story...and then I also - briefly and distantly and uncertainly - saw myself in the last couple chapters, when her healing journey becomes calmer, when she's a more healed woman. A more whole woman. It hit home.
A moment of irony, fate, coincidence, something:
I'd been using a flyer as a bookmark. For the Block Island Poetry Project. I was interested in the weekend, even though I knew I could never afford it. I'd taken the brochure from the cafe's bulletin board, though, just so that I could pine away for my lost opportunities of writing poetry in a place like Block Island. I'd been to Block Island before, and had fond memories of it and its beauty. Reading this book triggered a new memory for me, something that hasn't happened in years, something which was painful beyond what I can describe here. The new memory?
From our trip to Block Island in 1998.
Ironic, don't you think?