Wednesday, October 3, 2012
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.