Wednesday, October 23, 2013

23: Wild Card Wednesday - Speak

I read Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak this week at the recommendation of a friend.  It's a friend with whom I often discuss our sexual abuse histories.  I am usually guarded about what I read on this subject, but she assured me that it wasn't too much.

Published almost 15 years ago, winner of numerous awards, including the Printz Honor and National Book Award finalist, Speak tells the story of Melinda Sordino, a girl who finds herself so unable to voice the truth about her rape that she can barely speak at all.  Melinda is a girl unraveling, slipping away into a dark place, while those around her are at a loss about the reason behind her transformation.

Melinda's narration is often barbed and poetic.  Sometimes her general derision about the world confused me, left me wondering if she was always the cynic or if she morphed into one following her attack.  Her pain, her fear and her suffocating silence are palpable on the pages.

A book like this is important for so many reasons.  While it may function as a catalyst to encourage survivors of sexual assault to find their voice, it also bring awareness to the destructive affects of this type of crime.  Laurie Anderson said the thing that has shocked her most is the amount of email she's received from boys wondering what the big deal is.  That is frightening.  And a lot of the problem.  As a society we don't take these crimes seriously enough.  Which is another reason to raise your voice, to be heard.

One of the best side effects of reading is gaining empathy for a variety of people.  Though I could see a lot of myself in Melinda, parts of her I did not recognize in myself at all, but instead other faces floated into my mind.  Books can be windows into other people's pain.  To better understand the possible reasons that certain people shut everyone out, hide in negativity, and drown in self-hatred.  I welcome any crack that lets me shed my own self-focused viewpoint and peek into someone else's world for a moment.  To grow in mercy and grace.  It reminds me of this often quoted advice by Laura Moncur,

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."


Every time I hear this Sara Bareilles song I think of survivors of abuse.  Her words sometimes give me chills, sometimes make me cry.   Take a listen:

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