Sunday, March 8, 2009

Young Adult Fiction: Sanctuary

My father might be reading this at this very moment. Don't think I haven't thought about that.
I write anyway, the 'truest sentence' I know. My father hurt us. He hurt me, but more terribly ( I tell myself ) my mother and my baby sister. He hurt her so badly, I have not heard from her in 6 years. Thinking of what he did to her, and the results of those actions, fills me with a molasses, so thick and so rancid I make to drown in it. Like a raccoon on a miserable Mississippi summer's breath. This molasses is kept in the basement. This basement is where my blood tills. Where Bluebeard keeps his butchered women. These kind of images slide through my mind when I address my childhood. Father/Bluebeard I have a poem there. This basement is where many (not all, no) of my poems come from. I dreg the floorboards and leech them of their sick. Animals know enough to sick up what poisons them. I can do this as well.

The literature I read as a young girl saved my life. I have written an entire blog about that truth.
What saved me was no one novel and no one type of novel. Anne and her pollyanna charms spoke to me as clearly as Sylvia and her bell jar. But the bell jar- it reflected what was, not what I hoped for or dreamed of. I knew about the bell jar. And to find protagonists who spoke the Dark Arts, who understood this language- this was inclusive. This is the opposite of lonliness. Lonliness is what ugly suffering brings you. Who wants to be a part of that?

Acceptable Misery would have been arguing, fighting parents
Lonely misery was my father's fist through the glass windshield of our car

Acceptable Misery would have been being broke
Lonely misery was living one whole year in a studio motel room by the beach

Acceptable Misery would have been mean parents
Lonely misery was molest, nightmares of parents murdering you

How do you feel reading this? Uncomfortable? Unsure if it's worth it to read the story? Where it might go?

To live it. To live it. This is not explainable or transferable but it is a large stone I mouth with my tongue and push round my teeth until every single one is chipped in my efforts with half a tongue to Speak It. ( to me this IS being a writer )

The Young Adult novels that dared to breach darkness saved my soul. They told me you are not alone, a freak, an alien, a miserable mistake to be eradicated. Someone wrote this story:

and I read it. I read it again. And again, and again. During the reading, I understood some essential points to surviving my childhood with my soul intact: you can suffer deeply and greatly but you are not alone. And you can suffer deeply and greatly but you can make it out alive.
The darkness of this particular novel above, described here as:

“I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” is an autobiographical novel by Joanne Greenberg, written under the pen name of Hannah Green in 1964. It is the fictionalized story of her own hospitalization and treatment for so called “schizophrenia”. She describes her powerful struggle for recovery and shows that by finding sense in her psychotic experiences, she found a way back to a happy and self-determined life.

was a darkness that spoke to me in plain, gutteral and clear language. It was honest. It did not make things that were black into grey. What is dark is DARK. It cannot be made light by mincing words or sarcasm or jovial dismissal or even by lots of drinking and drugs and sex.

Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson, told a more subtle but achingly, absolutely achingly poignant story of a painful coming of age story, about a girl living on an island growing up in the shadow of her more beautiful, intelligent and loved sister, who at birth took center stage, and never stopped. The book is like the moors: still, quiet waters that run deep. The pain of the protagonist is so sharp and genuine. I literally have read this novel 30 or more times, and I still have the same copy I had at 15, which sits now on Lola's bookshelf. This book spoke to my isolation.

My beloved (almost above all others in YA) Anne of Green Gables series wraps up in this incredibly wonderful novel Rainbow Valley. Montgomery was brave in allowing the story line of Anne naturally evolve with her age and circumstance, growing much more serious in this novel taking place during the war, and revolving around a 'Rilla', Anne's almost grown daughter, who in an attempt to be more serious during serious times adopts a baby from a desperately poor and ill family who has no one to take care of it. Anne's son struggles greatly with his fear of suffering until finally he is shipped of the war, and killed. The novel is so tremendously skilled- her writing may be aimed at YA but the careful and most intelligent and deeply felt touch of her writing is to be appreciated by all ages.

I know that as a child, I read this book over and over and over out of the series, because the pain resonated with me.

There were so many Young Adult novels in the eighties that spoke of the reality of less than perfect childhoods, and many that also spoke of the darkness that childhood can take on when your caretakers fail. I could read these books and find a door to a room with other children like myself, confused, afraid, hurting, but desperately wanting to feel that there was a way out, a door beyond the door ( like the Wrinkle In Time ) where we could escape.
Barrie said...

I am so glad you had these books. And I am so sorry you had such a difficult difficult childhood. I loved I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. I never read Jacob Have I Loved. But I'll read it now.~Barrie xo

Maggie May said...

Barrie please tell me what you think after you read it. I think that book is sheer magic.

Amanda Joy said...

I have a fascination with portals and conduits, I believe books are both. I came to this in a similar way.
Great write Maggie!So great to be reading you again!


Maggie May said...

Amanda! So lovely you blog! I can't wait to browse your blogs.

jb said...

Maggie May, thanks for dropping by my blog. It's much appreciated. Yes, people buy these deli meats, that are so bad.... it's insane.

I'm a chef by trade and took this job because I'm selling my restaurant by the end of the month. We make everything from scratch and have a garden that we grow all our herbs and veggies. I get fresh food and good eating better then most. Since working at this deli....I'm so blown away by what people will injest and worse give they're kids.

I'm going to take some time later tonight when I get home from work to read threw some of your posts, but I did want to take the time to say thanks. Is your band really called Fake Meat that's an awesome name for a band. I'm obsessed with trying to eat as healthy as humanly possible...too. I think that our bodies are our temples and if we keep on giving it crap then we're going to turn into the crap we eat.


Hila said...

I have to read Jacob Have I loved Now. This post literally brought tears to my eyes. Have you read Gail Jones's Dreams of Speaking? Her book keeps on popping into my mind when I read this post. Especially this passage: "Mr Sakamoto said that reading had saved his life. Not mathematics. Not money. Not travel. Reading. At a time, he said, when he felt blasted by images, words had anchored him, secured him, stopped his free-falling plunge to nowhere." p.132

I love your honesty.

Delphine said...

I was very moved by your post, I had an incredibly happy childhood and it shakes me to my roots to read between the lines of your post. Thank God you have the talent to ride out your thoughts on paper.Thankyou for you visit and comments on my blog.

Ms. Moon said...

I know that books saved my life when I was young. As did music.
Sometimes I am not sure why my life was saved. But maybe it's because now I can write.
I think you feel the same.

Sharon said...

I think that reading and writing have both been your saviors and I imagine you are saving a lot of others who stumble across your blog. You are doing for them what these books did for you. You are a very brave woman:)

mames said...

i have read the first two, but never knew of rainbow valley. it is now on the list.

reading was always my sanctuary also, but for much more trivial reasons. i never contended with abuse and the loss of safety you did, but i live directly with someone who did.

i think you are much like her, choosing a completely different life for your family and children. and that is not ugly, just very very beautiful.

Sunday's Pearl said...

I want to wrap you in a great big hug... but I think your words are stronger than my arms.

rachel... said...

I'm so sorry to hear you had a painful childhood. I'm glad these books were a solace to you. I've never read any of them, but now I will. I think I will start this week. Just have to pay off my library fine.

What a poignant post. Thank you for sharing this.

Lola said...

I, too, loved I Never Promised You a Rose Garden!

Kurt said...

I glad you had these books. We had similar fathers it sounds like. Glad we made it through. :)

Evangeline said...

Books were my solace too as a child. And Anne, oh how I loved her!

Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog. I am very much enjoying your blog and poetry. Very powerful. Very real.

Cid said...

I think I need to go and think for a while. Your words have inspired me.

compulsively yours...for now said...

I was where you were when I was young, I read like crazy it kept me alive inside. it allowed me to be free even if it was only for brief amounts of time. I felt like I may have a more normal life one without the crap my family dished out on a daily basis. I am ok now, no more lingering fears etc. just happy memories of the many adventures and roles I played thanks to the books I treasured.

except for the summer I read the unabridged works of Edgar Allen Poe, um not the greatest idea to read when you are locked in a room with no window for months at a time, nope not the best idea.

Jenny Grace said...

Those were some of my favorite books growing up, and I grew up in a home that was relatively free of pain. I think their magic crosses all childhoods.

Maggie May said...

JB no i don't have a band! it was just a joke :) that's so awesome you grow your own foods. i think in another life i was a chef. i have a great appreciation for that career.
( love Top Chef :)

HILA that passage brought tears to MY eyes. thank you for sharing that with me.

DELPHINE you have the most beautiful name. it is on my baby name list :)

MS MOON to find our our purpose?

MAMES let me know how you like it?
there are actually five (?) books in the series.

PEARL that is one of the best things anyone has ever said to me. thank you for that.

RACHEL thank you for reading and responding. it's connection...makes the world less scary.

LOLA that book is so powerful.

KURT yikes. i'm glad you are out there making a beautiful life too.

EVANGALINE i'm so glad you read and enjoyed the poetry. i adore your name ( as Delphines too! ) i have a friend who named her daughter Evangaline and calls her Eva (evah)

CID what more could i want?

COMPULSIVE i'm sorry you suffered so much growing up. thank god you had books too.

GRACE i'm sure this is true.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Books are the great escape (and the best comfort blanket when you slip between their pages). So glad these helped you make it through Maggie May.

Anonymous said...

Your truest sentences don't make me uncomfortable, they make me THINK. Also, I've learned something about people who explain their childhood admitting that others in the family in fact had it worse or were hurt in a more terrible manner- they usu have a much more realistic outlook on life and have been able to heal to an extent.. The people I cannot abide (after a time) are the ones who always explain that they have indeed had it worse than any other living being. Most of them have not healed nor tried to heal at all and while I can sympathize with their pain, after a while I don't see the point of playing the same record every day....and claiming there is no hope and will never be any hope.

You are Hopeful. You bring it on yourself, you work it.

My parents did not abuse or neglect me but books were my escape from a very poor ($$) young life and many years home(as a teen) caring for a terminally ill mother. I literally left the room and climbed into my books. I suspect the same of you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that awesome comment you left. I love the 'those heels on your side bar slay me.' Made my day.....

Steam Me Up, Kid said...

Words help. That's why we're all here. ;-)

Have you ever written a letter to any of those authors?

ConverseMomma said...

Maggie, you are so beautiful and bold and brave. I would like to have you over for chocolate and just talk books for hours. I'm sorry that you were ever hurt. I'll glad your heart found a stronghold in literature. So very glad.

Your list took me back down the path of my own childhood. I loved each of these books, as well.

compulsively yours...for now said...

MM--I am ok with what has happened i have given my forgiveness and extended a hand of friendship to those who hurt me.

Thank you for the post it was fun to read and also to remember those books that kept me so very alive inside and gave me the courage to continue forward with a smile on my face.

loveology said...

Hi lovely!
Un-very-fortunately i have no time at this moment to read this whole post. Sorry for that!
I remember reading 'i never promised you a rosegarden' and i loved it. It was very touching, i remember.

Thank you so much for your comment, dear.
God bless you too.

I'll be back when i have more time.


CSD Faux Finishing said...

Your bold courage to put it out there makes me truly respect you even more than I already did. Thank you so much for sharing your story and these books. The Anne series is familiar to me, the others not at all and I will try to locate and read them at some point in the future for sure.

Kate Moore said...

I am very lucky to have had good, solid, strong, hard working, loving parents. I am sorry your father wasn't able to give you that. It is a responsibility and clearly one he never ever got his head around.
It sounds though that it is grist to your mill and has made you you. Blessings to your sister, wherever she may be.

essbesee said...

so uh, I'm just talking about jet skis and such at my place, but uh...I always meant to read I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Maybe I will now. I think music was my teen novel, although I read those too. I am glad you found your solace in these books.

Ms. Moon said...

And Maggie- Just had to add that Little Women, as dated and New Englandish as it was, was the book that opened my eyes to the fact that parents could (and should) be loving and supportive, no matter what. It taught me about boundaries and about spirituality and about what a family can be. I cherish my original copy.

Jeanne Estridge said...

I think it was seeing Anne and Meg in my list of favorite books that first brought you to visit me, and I also loved "Rose Garden." I'm adding "Jacob" to my list and wondering if you've ever read "The Blue Castle" by L.M. Montgomery? It's about a 29-year-old spinster who finds out that she'll die in a year and decides to live as she never has. I think in some ways she became my model....

Badass Geek said...

I know this is not quite the same, but something in "Bridge To Terabithia" spoke to me when I was a kid. It was honest, it showed pain and childhood struggle the way I understood it. I think of that book as one that enlightened me.

I must have read that book two or three dozen times, checking it out from the school library at least once every other month. My name filled the check-out list on the back cover.

Andrea Eames said...

Have you read anything by Cynthia Voigt? Her novels really resonated with me when I was a YA. (I guess I still am a YA).

Bee said...

There's an offical word for it: Bibliotherapy. "We read to know that we're not alone." (C.S. Lewis)

You are a brave writer, MM. You make me want to go back into teaching -- just to see if I can steer a few more suffering kids toward the books that might speak to them.

I'm glad that you mentioned Jacob I Have Loved. I need to dig it out of a box and share it with my teenaged daughter who is suffering from some kind of unhappiness that she can't/won't share with me.

Hila said...

I've tagged you - see my latest post :)

katydidnot said...

jacob have i loved was my favorite.

this is inappropriate for the nature of your post, but are you in sd? how do we not know each other? you're brilliant.

San Diego Momma said...

Books were my sanctuary as a kid too, but for very different and less painful reasons than yours. And I'm so sorry for what happened to you.

I remember I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and how struck I was by its intensity. It reminded me of Go Ask Alice in tone.

Also! Wrinkle in Time was the book that made me want to write young adult fiction.

Maggie May said...

FrankandMary of the FrankandMary clan
i would love one day to hear more of your story maybe you can write it out on your blog you are a wonderful writer the kind i like to read

STEAM no i have not. i was going to write to Norman Mailer who is a BIG DEAL For me but then he died a few months after i obtained his publishers contact

CONVERSE you are really sweet. that made me smile.

COMPULSIVE you are clearly a survivor AND you thrive this is such a gift

JENN i would love to hear what you think of any or all of the books

SHERRI do it! do it!

MS MOON little women is terribly important to me. i've read it at least twenty times. and little men, and jo's boys...

GEEK i love Bridge to Terebethia and still have my preteen copy.

CAT i'm not sure? will see.

BEE thank you for that word! awesome: bibliotherapy

KATY yes san diego, i was glad to find you too, kindred.

SD MOMMA oh wow, Go Ask ALice--- what a heartbreakingly sad sad sad book. i read it a few times and it killed me each time. so sad. i'm so glad you reminded me of it though, because i had forgotten about it and i don't want to

Maggie May said...

JEANNE i'm going to read that book stat.

zipbagofbones said...

I had some of those books, too.

Dena said...

jacob have I loved was one of my favorite books. I want to read it again now. Did you ever read The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

Simplicity said...

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is one of my favorite books. I have a worn and tattered copy on my bookshelf...

aurbie said...

Jacob Have I Loved was also made into a movie, and it was filmed in Crisfield, my town!

We are famous for more than crabs.

The house still stands, but it has been remolded, and it has the most beautiful view of the bay.

I think the movie was made for PSB, and it aired years ago.

The secenery is still the same around here. That's what I like about Crisfield. Beautiful landscape, and time just moves a little slower here.

Maggie Madison said...

Thanks for putting yourself out there about your childhood, it helps me remember why I do what I do.

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