♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Why would you, as an author/reader,
abandon (stop reading) someone else’s book?
Welcome back to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop! If you’re new to the series, the authors included are grateful for your reads and appreciate, even more so, when you share our writings with your friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Be prepared to become a regular reader.
I was in my third year of studying for my bachelor’s degree, and enrolled at UAlbany. The class was turn of the century American history, so Teddy and the lot, and I thought it was going to be great. The professor was a talented man who really knew his topic. The problem was never him, nor most of the subject matter. But there was this one book they assigned, which covered the Klan. I promised myself that I would read it, like anything else, through to the end, because I always finish. My premise was that I needed to know what was in the book, at least for testing purposes.
When the test came, it was an essay. I was versed well in this time period and the topics. It was my bag, so to speak, and I got a 95 on the exam. My pride swelled, most especially because I threw the book I was to read across the room, and never took it up again, but to get it out of the way of the vacuum.
What caused such a volatile reaction? My nature is placid, unless pushed (many times). That’s not to say that I allow people to kick me in the shins repeatedly until I am bruised. I have a voice and I don’t allow others to abuse me, so long as I recognize it. In this case, the issue was something not personal. It was my empathy that did not allow for me to continue with that book.
You see, after reading the founder of the klan had less than a third grade education, I couldn’t handle reading a word more. An entire platform, one that has been wielded to justify violence against others in my nation, was based off the lunatic ideology of a dumb as dirt mother f—. Pardon my language, but seriously, this man is responsible for lynchings, murders, rapes, racist law, jim crow, and a slew of other insane race based abuses. My empathy for those this was inflicted upon was whipped up beyond a level of comfort that allowed me to read more.
Could I read more today? I probably could have finished it over the years, taking it in by doses. I have watched and read things that have caused me what felt like PTSD, because I carry it to this day without knowing how to package it up and handle it without pain—like the video of young American soldiers throwing a puppy off a cliff in the middle east. The yelping rings in my head as I type this now. I cried that day, and I cried other days, because what else could I do. I couldn’t save the puppy from the murder it experienced, the casual cruelty. My mind couldn’t wrap around the smiling faces and laughter at what they had just done. And, I couldn’t read another word more about the founder of the Klan because I couldn’t deal, in the moment, with thinking about all the people who have suffered and died because of them, and the utter fear of knowing they were at every level of our society. I felt helpless. I felt sick. I felt outraged.
What do you do with that, other than start working on change? Change takes time, a long, long time. I still cry. I still feel helpless, sick, and outraged. I write on, but the flood keeps coming. Would finishing that book have helped? No. I read enough to refresh my memory and take an A in that course without my grade being affected by the test that came on that book, and that was all I was concerned with at the time. There’s no good I could have done anyone, least of all myself, if I had continued to read it and, who knows.
Just to counter this, I’ll confess that I read The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor despite the PTSD trigger contained in it. The rape scene frightened and alarmed me, called up all sorts of old emotions, and I pushed through. I probably was able to do that because it was something I had learned to engage and disengage long ago. I knew the feelings of fear and violation would pass. I never read it again. Naylor’s work has my utmost respect, because that took bravery to write. Here, I didn’t feel so helpless, even though I was there on the street with Lorraine while it happened. It was brutal. I cried. I hated it. But, I didn’t feel helpless. I felt like I was there to witness another woman’s suffering, and hear my own experiences echoed back. Girl, same. I knew what I had to do here.
The difference is feeling lost and helpless, unable to prevent this horror from occurring again, and knowing it is all too late. Lorraine was fiction (based on reality, but still fiction), while the klan and killing puppies is historical reality. You might say, well Brewster was based on reality, and you bet it was, but when you read a play versus a non-fiction work about human brutality, or a move versus a document…Your mind can compartmentalize better. You package it up. You can deal with it. But, also, I had the experience, and I knew how to deal with it and what worked to ease the trauma of bearing witness.
Can you imagine what those who lived it actually went through? In one case, I don’t know, but in the other I do. I stopped reading because I couldn’t process the fear, disgust, and anger. That was a powerful book. It’s too bad I even erased the author and the book cover from memory, because I would share that with you.
All I can remember is reading that the founder dropped out with a third-grade education, and lying in my bed at my mom’s, then throwing the book in disgust…
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