“Unedited Voices of the Upper Valley” and WISE, a domestic violence advocacy group, published this collection of survivors’ stories of domestic and gender-based violence, including my own. In conjunction with the publication, they held a presentation at the Lebanon, N.H. Opera House. Community members shared experiences of domestic and sexual violence through reading, dance and song. This event first took place in April 2014, and there were women at the 2018 event who had presented at the first one.
It was a pretty amazing event. I went into it thinking, no one wants to hear these stories. It’s true that many of them were horrific. A few people broke down and almost couldn’t get through it. Other stories — a boy remembered his mother being beaten, and his father turning on him, then three years old; a woman was attacked in a hotel room by a stranger and then blamed by her husband; a woman had been gang-raped by bikers 50 years ago — were so horrific I felt they were seared into my brain.
But the thing is, the act of telling and being heard is healing. When someone telling became shaky, of the rest of us who were sitting on stage, others would come up behind her or him and stand in silent support. Or place a hand on the speaker’s shoulder. And everybody got through it.
It has to be said: there were pretty women and plain women, old women and young women, the well-dressed and the thrown-together, those who were poised and those who were shattered. I kept thinking, they look so normal. You’d never know.
In the end the audience stood up and clapped for all they were worth. I couldn’t believe that either.
It was really something, the whole thing. I would have liked to take every one of them home with me and do something. Make them an omelette, give them a cup of tea, ask about their lives. I had to leave, but I have the book with me, so I have their voices.
“From the Finger Lakes; A Prose Anthology” was just published by Cayuga Lake Books in Ithaca, NY. It includes a memoir of Willard, the old state asylum for the mentally ill in Ovid, NY, by me, and excellent pieces by widely known and barely known writers. On
Some of my favorite pieces – and I’m only just working my way through- are Kenneth McClane’s lookback at New York City; Franklin Crawford‘s verbal snapshot of Ithaca Gun; Stephen Poleskie‘s “The Hosta”; Paul Cody‘s “The Last Next Time” and David Warren’s “The Last Marriage.”
Reading through this collection I begin to hear a regional voice. Is there such a thing, or is this the influence of our editor, Rhian Ellis? Do we share an aesthetic?