Book Review: We Have Come Far

“We Have Come Far:  Gifts of Healing from Survivors of Extreme Trauma”
Ani Rose Whaleswan, Editor
Sojourn Press, 2014
http://www.amazon.com/We-Have-Come-Far-survivors/dp/0692213252/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402244950&sr=1-1&keywords=whaleswan

This summer brings us three important books — a cornucopia of information and support, more than we have had in the whole past year. Just for fun, I’ll keep the titles of the other two secret until I review them. You are welcome to guess in the comments section. That way, I may discover a fourth or even a fifth and a sixth.

As far as I know, this is the only anthology of writing about healing by survivors and only the second anthology of survivor writings, period. The first one came out in 1995. Can you imagine! There had been nothing for almost twenty years and then somebody saw the need, responded to it, and invited others to respond to it. Hooray!

Ani Rose sees the book as a collective endeavor and honors each person’s point of view and voice. She doesn’t footnote, explain, or change wording, she just lets each person’s wisdom shine in words that come straight from the heart. Although the stories and poems and styles are very different, all twenty-one chapters have truth, hope, and courage in common. Each is truly inspiring.

You may recognize some of the names: among them are Wanda Karriker, Lynn Schirmer, Alikina, Janet Thomas, Ani Rose, and me. Others will be new to you. You will find that they have every bit as much to say as the more well-known authors. Many of the entries are full of ideas I never thought of. Many are intensely spiritual and brought me to the verge of tears. All of them touched me deeply and will stay with me for a long, long time.

I’ll end by quoting from Ani Rose’s introduction.

“We have come far, and we will continue on – as we always have. May the real life experiences here inspire you with the knowledge that you are not alone as a survivor or a professional or a friend, and encourage you to continue on, to share your own stories when and where you can, to educate, to whistleblow and advocate safely, and to always remember that we are always strong – and we are stronger together. A braver, kinder world is possible, and we are helping to create it, globally.

It is when we connect that we are strongest. Abuse is always about isolation, about power-over, about difference. But life itself, and living it fully (perhaps the best definition of “healing”) is about connection, power-with, and what we all have in common.”

May you never again believe that you are alone.”

The Joy of Blog Writing

One of my first jobs was as a technical writer. I had to figure out what I needed to explain, who my audience was, write a draft, and have it critiqued by engineers. Then I had to revise the damn thing and send it back to the engineers.

The problem was, the engineers were not interested. They left the copy on their desks, and went, “yeah, yeah” when bugged. Sometimes they just handed it back without reading it. I learned to sneak outrageous things in so that I could call them on ignoring me. At that point they got miffed and corrected my grammar, which was, frankly, better than theirs.

Needless to say, the process wasn’t very gratifying.

When I was a social worker, my writing was usually read only by myself. My standards were pretty high and I liked doing a good job. But with a readership of one, all that work seemed a little pointless.

My next experience with writing was for Survivorship. I did fifteen to twenty pieces a year for the Notes and the Journal and, believe me, it felt like a lot. Most of the time I had nobody to make suggestions or edit my work. Sometimes I lucked out and found a proof reader. It was a lonely endeavor.

I thought that what I was writing might be helpful, but I got very little feedback — people commented three or four times a year at most. At least nobody was complaining loudly. I just accepted the situation because I thought it was normal, part and parcel of the job. It wasn’t much different from my other writing experiences, after all. And I understood that being a survivor can be a full-time job, with little energy left over for anything else.

My website, ra-info.org, is basically a giant bibliography of others’ work, so writing on my part is pretty much confined to listing keywords. The fun is in tracking down new references and making things look pretty.

But a blog — oh how very different!!! People comment on almost everything that’s posted. For the first time, I am learning how my pieces affect people, which ones are helpful, which ones not so much. When I repost something I wrote years ago, the feedback suggests that I probably did reach people after all. It cuts right through the loneliness!

Some commenters are old e-friends, others are new to me. Most have an RA background but there are also readers who, for some reason or another, want to know more about ritual abuse. I feel part of a community that stretches around the world. I always knew, in an intellectual way, that this survivor community was out there, but now it is real to me.

Thank you all for this truly wonderful gift.