Sunday, September 18, 2011


After a shout-out by a sci-fi writer, I checked out Rachel Manija Brown's All the Fishes come Home to Roost yesterday from the public library (which yes, still exists! And was open!).

This is your standard run-of-the-mill horrible-childhood memoir along the line of Augusten Burroughs., though the horror was fairly brief in length (roughly four years) and not anywhere near as bad as what Augusten mentions. A lot of it reads sort of like what someone would tell her therapist while reliving bad things that happened to her in the past. I.e., sort of a "therapy book".

Which brings to mind the question of, is that sort of thing good or bad? Rachel clearly went through a traumatic experience, if her description of the aftermath is correct -- basically PTSD to the point where a Vietnam veteran, noticing her checking out a restroom and surroundings for threats prior to going in, asked her what war she'd been in. Yeah, you can get PTSD from the domestic wars too, folks, especially when they happen to you as a kid (don't ask me how I know, let's just say there's certain situations I avoid even at forty years remove). So anyhow, what the stats say is that talk therapy is no more or no less useful than just time by itself, so what use is this kind of "therapy memoir"? But then I think...

There are things I'll never know, that now Rachel knows as a result of asking people directly to get information for her book. What happened to my mother when she was 18 years old in Mississippi, that was the "bad situation" that my Aunt Lucille said she and my Uncle had to rescue her from? My mother has blanked it out and my Aunt is dead, I'll never know. My grandmother's little sister who died in the tragic fire, what was she like, and why did my great-grandmother ban liquor from the house forever afterwards? My grandmother didn't talk, my great-grandmother didn't talk, they're dead and everybody from their generation is dead.

Knowledge -- simply knowing -- is power. And there's so many questions I'll never know the answers to, because I didn't know I should ask them, because at the time there were questions that simply weren't to be asked, or because I don't have the courage today to ask them. At least Rachel has answers to her questions, or at least a large number of them.

I had another dream about my grandmother today. My mother was distraught because her mother had to use a walker now. In reality, of course, my grandmother has been dead for over ten years, and my mother is the one who needs a walker. I think it was just my subconscious reminding me that the past isn't dead, it's just past, and trying to bury it doesn't work. At which point I might say "okay, but why publish a tell-all book about it for all the world to read?" but that's perhaps a subject for a later day.

-- Badtux the Dreaming Penguin

1 comment:

  1. I was extraordinarily lucky; I've never had to deal with that kind of situation, either as a child or as an adult. But my mother, who was one of six children of an alcoholic father and an enabling mother, had episodes during her early life that she simply would not talk about. She'd start... and then change the subject. It was too painful. It took me a very long time to figure out how seriously she was wounded; unfortunately, I never really caught on to it while she was still alive. If I had, I might have been a more supportive daughter.


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