This column is not the one I planned to write this week. Over the past few days, I have mentally written (and rewritten) a column on the library’s community reading program, which begins next month. But every time I set aside a few moments to sit down and type, I’m preoccupied with questions a little more onerous and my thoughts drift into introspection.
See, my sister lives in New Orleans. Its neighborhood is loosely bordered by Lake Pontchartrain to the north, Lake Borgne to the east and the Mississippi River to the south.
So, while Hurricane Ida raged in Louisiana last month, I basically existed at the time of the Gulf Coast; watch their local TV news, check and recheck the storm’s forecast path, and track my sister’s progress as she fled south to the Mississippi to wait for things to happen.
It was a nerve-racking few days.
She’s home now, cleaning her apartment, and sailing past the storm in a still hampered city. But even when the debris is cleared, power is restored and life returns to a semblance of “normalcy” – whatever that means – memories and anxiety will likely persist.
For her; for me; and for countless others.
I’m not really one to probe the self-analysis, but after a week or more of Irma’s very visible and tangible results in the Southeast; the wildfires here in the West – and the myriad of other natural and man-made disasters that are dominating the news cycle of the last few days – all I can think of is the resilience of humanity .
I suspect this is why I sometimes find myself compelled to read about the perseverance of others as a result of stressors, existential upheaval, and searing trauma.
I do not know; for me, perhaps, reading about the experiences of others is partly commiseration and partly a way to determine the ways in which they have developed tools to bridge the breadth of their ordeal.
The stories and memories that appeal to me are those that show us that emotional and spiritual wounds – like chalk on a blackboard – can never be entirely erased; the essence remains, just as the trauma, once experienced, becomes part of our being.
The beauty, the necessity, of these stories is in their message: The goal is not to erase the trauma, but to learn to remove it from the foreground, to bear the scars as the markers of a difficult undertaking, but fruitful.
• “I had a miscarriage: a memory, a movement” by Jessica Zucker. When Zucker, a psychologist specializing in reproductive and maternal mental health, miscarried sixteen weeks after the start of her second pregnancy, she was engulfed in the grief that accompanies such a loss, while also feeling compelled to suppress the “Silence, shame and stigma. ”Which surrounds the subject of miscarriage. From the founding of the #IHadaMiscarriage social media campaign to his work to give voice to what is often a secret and lonely trauma, Zucker’s memoir is a painful, validating, thought-provoking, and unmistakably needed read.
• “Wave” by Sonali Deraniyagala. “Wave” is the first-hand account of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami that devastated southern Sri Lanka and claimed the lives of the entire family of Deraniyagala. Raw and unwavering, “Wave” is an ode to grief, resilience, loss and eternal love.
• “Heavy: an American memory” by Kiese Laymon. This book takes readers on a difficult journey, beginning with the author’s education as a “hard-headed” black boy in Jackson, Mississippi, where he struggled to come to terms with pervasive bigotry, the aftermath of sexual violence, his suspension from college, a complicated relationship with his mother, and futile attempts to assuage her pain with various vices. Described by the New York Times as “magnificent, gutted… generous”, it is a strikingly honest, haunting, and even amusing exploration of the magnificent flaws in human identity.
• Krystal Corbray is the Programming and Marketing Librarian for Yakima Valley Libraries. She and other library staff are writing this column for Thursday’s SCENE section. Learn more about www.yvl.org.