Emerging As a Storyteller
Updated: May 23
The truth: some of us don’t survive.
When I consider what I have suffered at the hands of the ignorant, the brutal, or the narcissistic, and it stretches from birth through five decades now, I have the consolation of knowing I live to tell the tale. Abuse, in whatever form it takes, the need for control and submission, whether personal or institutional, and the enablers who look the other way, do get people killed. Some stories end only in horror.
But out of horror maybe something emerges. It was transformative to read Natasha Tretheway’s memoir, Memorial Drive, when she comes to terms with the murder of her mother by her stepfather. He came to shoot her first, but when Natasha treated him with kindness, her stepfather took his gun and hunted down her mother. And in case convention has you thinking that only men are abusers, read Carmen Maria Machado’s innovative and revelatory, In The Dream House, which relates her life in relationship with an abusive woman.
Trauma always takes you by surprise, seizes you by the throat. Seeing the police file on her mother’s murder long after the event, Tretheway is filled with the awfulness of the truth: “No, no, no, no, no, no.” I have found some consolation in thinking of other women who have survived horror to become storytellers, and when I am flooded with my own horrors, I often utter, “No, no, no, no, no,” as if refusal, after the fact, could actually alter history. Some of us die, and some of us scrape by, try to make the best of what has been granted to us, try to move forward in what seems like a hostile world. Behind our subversive and resilient figures, looming oceans of loss.