Wednesday, October 3, 2012

LIVE THROUGH THIS or WHY YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK



Standing in the middle of the Chelsea Market. I am listening to Liesa Abrams over the crowd of people pushing us to move forward. They are annoyed with us for taking up valuable walking space. We’re meeting Liesa’s husband, James, so the three of us can have dinner while I’m in town and it feels nice to have family in New York, even if they’re my family through love, not blood. But we can’t find James, so we’ve stopped to text him, and this has somehow devolved into talking.

Liesa pulls a paperback from her bag, an Advanced Reader Copy of Mindi Scott’s new book, Live Through This. Her eyes shine as she starts to tell me about it. I’ve met Mindi before. I sat with her and her husband at James and Liesa’s wedding reception. They were really sweet and I enjoyed talking and eating gluten free batmobile wedding cake with them.

Liesa’s telling me how proud she is of the book, of Mindi for writing it because it was inspired by personal events in Mindi’s life. Liesa really wants people to read it and she’s asking me to help spread the word. I take the book just as James finds us in the crowd. As we head to dinner, it goes in my bag and is forgotten until later that night when I get back to my friend’s place in Brooklyn, where I’m staying for the next few weeks. I read the book in one sitting. And then I sob uncontrollably for an hour. Captain, my friend’s beautiful one-eyed cat, curls up in bed beside me and let’s me hold him until I stop.

I’ve asked my very smart and savvy writer friend, Sarah Kuhn, (check out her awesome stuff here) to guest blog with me today. I gave her my copy of Live Through This. I thought two voices would be better than one:

Amber: Coley Sterling is a typical type A high school overachiever. She has friends, a boy who adores her, a family that loves her…and a secret that’s ripping her apart from the inside out. The reader isn’t immediately privy to Coley’s secret. Like pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope, the clues fall together slowly until the whole picture is finally revealed. And it’s a devastating one.  Mindi Scott has a real talent for getting inside her protagonist’s head. She sketches out Coley’s story in grand swathes, and then paints in all the little details, so that you feel as though you are enmeshed in Coley’s brain: thinking her thoughts, feeling her confusion, anger, and, in the end, pain. I just don’t think it’s possible to read this book and not identify with Coley in some way. Abuse comes in all different sizes and shapes––and I know I‘ve felt alone, ashamed, scared.

Sarah: I think specificity always leads to authenticity in a story––and that's why I think we feel like we're so with Coley throughout the whole book, even when we don't know everything about her life. The details you're referring to, the ones Mindi paints in so carefully, are all so specific––I'm thinking of things like the compliment game Coley plays with her crush-morphing-to-boyfriend Reece, wherein they quote various over-the-top song lyrics to each other. Stuff like that makes every single relationship in the book feel very real. And it keeps the subject matter––the revelations behind Coley's heartbreaking secret––from feeling Afterschool Special-y or like we're being beat over the head with a Story About Important Issues.  I crave that kind of honesty/specificity mix in all stories and because of that, I'm about to be that super-annoying person who yells at everyone she knows to read this book IMMEDIATELY.

Amber: I think you and both are gonna be that super-annoying person because I really believe this book is important. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) 1 in 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape…and the effects of sexual abuse are life long. The message I took away from Live Through This was that, yes, awful things might happen in our lives, but you can get through them, you can survive and overcome.

Sarah: Well, I'm used to being annoying, so that works out nicely. I agree that it's an important book (and I think part of its importance lies in the way that it doesn't insist on proclaiming itself An Important Book, if that makes sense) and I also think the survival/overcoming part is portrayed extremely realistically. Those moments aren't depicted as if there is triumphant, swelling music in the background––again, it's just honest. I also thought the way Coley's other relationships were portrayed were very relatable––the friend she's had a falling out with, the boyfriend who's not quite her boyfriend yet. There was some very true-to-life teenagerdom in those connections, and that really gives the sense that you're seeing a full portrait of someone's life––good parts and bad.

Amber: So I think we're in agreement.  Do yourself a favor.  Go out and buy Live Through This.  Read it and share it with the people you love. Especially anyone who is going through, or has gone through a trauma in their life.  I am linking to Mindi's Livejournal post about why she wrote the book here.  Her own personal journey, the one she outlines in that Livejournal post, is a testament to why you should read this book.

Sarah: Yes, please buy this. As Amber will attest, I am a very picky person who doesn't like very many things...but I loved this.

For more info on anti-sexual violence check out RAINN.

And you can get LIVE THROUGH THIS on Amazon or order it through your local bookseller.



























14 comments:

  1. Look, I'm sorry, but I have to digress here for a moment. I know sexual assault is a serious topic, and I'm glad the book is awesome, but I read the phrase "gluten free batmobile wedding cake" and was suddenly struck by the fact that I have never in my life seen those five words grouped like that and IT WAS AWESOME.

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  2. This is a book I will def be checking into. Your friend is a very stong and brave woman if the events you describe are part of her past. That's a difficult subject to live through, let alone write about. (I follow this blog, but would rather not leave my name.)

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  3. Aaargh! SPOILER ALERT please Amber! Now we all know Coley's secret and don't get to discover it on our own by piecing together all the little 'painted in details' as we read… :-/

    crystalsinger
    (Only posting as anonymous 'coz I can't get any of the sign-ins to work on a mobile browser…)

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    1. Promise none of the above is a spoiler. The gist of the story is explained in the first chapter...just read the book. There are so many twists and turns :)

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  4. Such a coincidence...or fortunate twist of fate however you see it. I needed something like this right now. Thank you for posting about it, I'll pick it up immediately.

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  5. Joe aka AmberAddictOctober 4, 2012 at 4:42 AM

    An excellent blog post Amber and Sarah too of course. The way both of you have described the book it seems very powerful. It's not the sort of book I normally read only because I prefer to escpape into fiction rather confront real life. That said maybe I need to make an exception here?

    Enjoy your time in New York Amber! :o)

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  6. As someone who has been the victim of abuse (thankfully not sexual but certainly emotional and psychological from more than one person, and have witnessed the abuse of others, would there be words of hope and comfort for me in such a book?

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  7. Thank you for the recommendation. I will certainly bookmark this for a future read. So much of life can become a form of abuse, some violently harsh, other very subtle and manipulative--like the need to control another. Ive seen it on so many levels that it has become a consistent theme, in one form or another, in my own writing.

    Good title by the...I think most of us are "Living Through This," in some way. And the scary thing about a users is that they have been abused themselves and never gotten beyond it. Many hold it inside until it takes root and becomes a part of their own life in some twisted way. They were made to feel that exposing the problem would be more shameful than doing something about it in many cases. Or, in past generation of our parents and grandparents, people were not supposed to talk about such things. They just needed to buck up and get on with life.

    I think it's long past time that people made to feel they needed to hide really don't have to any longer. Society has become more sophisticated, more understanding that abuse is never the victims fault. And I think that is mostly due to people speaking out, telling stories like this one.

    I haven't even read the book yet, but will agree a tale like this one is worth everyone's time to read. Because you never know who might just need to wake up and break the chain of the hurt and lies perpetuated by humanity's silent, suffering past.

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  8. I think I'll check it out, might help provide another peice of that thing I look for in so many places; I call it clarity. Most of us have experienced some kind of violence, not necessarily sexual, and so often we don't even realize exactly what happened, let alone how it has shaped us. DaddyCatALSO

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  10. Looks like an interesting read.

    Working in the criminal justice system has probably given me a warped negative view of humanity...but it does appear to me that cases of abuse are increasing in frequency and severity.

    The most profoundly disturbing aspect of this subject now is that abusers now have institutional protection. The Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, the BBC and Penn State are just some of the more prominent instances of it.

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  11. I haven't finished it yet, but I already love it. Tough it's dealing with such an difficult subject it's fairly easy to read (for a foreigner) and get entirely lost in it. I think that probably everyone has been abused in their lives - one way or another - and therefore can relate (on some level) their own experiences to Mindi's story. Big thank you for sharing.

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