Any one of us who loves to read can testify to the healing powers of reading. Reading helps people deal with loss, illness and being victims of crime. I’ve been through some tough times in my life, times when I don’t know what I would have done without books. By the time I became a teacher, I realized that my traumas were mild compared to many of my students’.
Back then (many moons ago ;-)) I didn’t know about therapists or women’s groups, but I did love to read. At times I was almost healed from one trauma when another happened. Just so you know, of course, physical violence is a trauma, as well as witnessing violence (probably the most common trauma for young people). But the death of a loved one is also a trauma; so is divorce – many say it is equal to death as that person is no longer a part of your life. The spoken word can be, and often is, violent: yelling, insults, making a person feel like they are not worthy of love; these can all be very traumatic.
In my twenties, when I lived in New Orleans, just walking out of my home could be a traumatic experience. In fact, being INSIDE your home could be too. I remember one night getting up to write because I couldn’t sleep. I heard two men arguing over a woman, neither of which bothered to ask the woman who she wanted to be with. I wrote that my experiences in New Orleans prepared me for the violence I would later witness in El Salvador. In truth, it was worse in NOLA: a man getting shot dead for hitting the bumper of a an off-duty policeman, a woman, missing getting her face smashed in by inches. The latter was during Mardi Gras, which I grew to hate because of the violence and mean spiritedness of many of the people. Oh yeah, she was being hit by a policeman too. I also heard stories of police killing young black children (as young as eight or ten years old) and pulling out their “throw away” gun to place on the scene so they could claim self-defense.
By that time, I was spending weeks, maybe months, going to work and coming home, then spending all the rest of the time reading or sleeping. I wasn’t sleeping much those days, which is unusual for me. I stayed up most of the night reading voraciously. I remember reading “Papillon” and Marge Piercy’s “Woman on the Edge of Time.” Piercy’s book had such an influence on me that, for years, my goal in life was to become a screenwriter so I could turn the story into a movie. (Sadly, I was not meant to be a screenwriter so if anyone reading this is, seriously consider making this into a movie!)
Reading, especially novels, helped me to see that we have many choices in this life; we don’t have to do what those around us are doing. And we certainly don’t have to be victims. Now that I am older, I have seen that some of the strongest people are survivors of extreme abuse, but at that time, I could only see that in fiction. And the occasional memoir.
Another book, “Drinking: A Love Story,” is a memoir written by a woman who was an alcoholic though it took her years to finally accept that fact. It is one of several books that helped me realize that many of us, women and men alike, struggle with the same issues. Whether we are male or female, black, white or brown, American, French or Salvadoran, reading helps us to understand ourselves and to let go of shame: someone else has been here before us and someone will be there after us. And we must survive.
P.S. For these reasons, writing is important too. Write your story and help the world heal.
P.P.S. My dream is to one day do workshops for seniors and troubled teens (& who among us wasn’t a troubled teen?), to help them write their stories and release their pain so they can become their best self. With the seniors, I have discovered that many, especially women, haven’t told their family of their life before they started a family.
P.P.P.S. I wrote my novel to help myself and others heal. My Salvadoran ex-in-laws are so proud that I wrote about their “Tom Thumb” country!
Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador: http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y
Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too: