Truth: Four Stories I Am Finally Old Enough to Tell by Ellen Douglas
In four haunting family stories, Ellen Douglas seeks to track down the truth—about herself, about her white Mississippi forebears, about their relationships to black Mississippians, and ultimately about their guilt as murderers of helpless slaves. Progressively searching further and further back in time, each of these four family tales involves collusion and secrets.
In “Grant,” a randy old uncle dying in the author’s house is nursed by a beautiful black woman while his white family watches from a “respectful” distance. Who loves him better? When truth is death, who is braver facing it?
In “Julia and Nellie,” very close cousins make “a marriage in all but name” back in the days of easy scandal. The nature of the liaison never mentioned, the family waives its Presbyterian morality in the face of family deviance.
In “Hampton,” her grandmother’s servant, who has constructed a world closed to whites, evades the author’s tentative efforts at a meeting of minds.
And finally, in “On Second Creek,” Douglas confronts her obsession with the long-lost—or -buried—facts of the “examination and execution” of slaves who may or may not have plotted an uprising.
Having published fiction for four decades, here she crosses over into the mirror world of historical fact. It’s a book, she says, “about remembering and forgetting, seeing and ignoring, lying and truth-telling.” It’s about secrets, judgments, threats, danger, and willful amnesia. It’s about the truth in fiction and the fiction in “truth.” [book link]
shadowwhisper123 asked: Just wanted to say I think you are a very intelligent, eloquent, and insightful human being and that I greatly enjoy hearing what you have to say. I wish you all the peace and happiness in the world.
Wow. Thank you for those kind words.
— Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (via entropy-entropy)
— Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (via fables-of-the-reconstruction)
I want to work on my creative writing and I’m in a horror mood.
Warning, there’s most likely going to be blood and swearing. ALSO IT’S GOING TO TAKE ME A WHILE TO WRITE THEM AND THERE’S NO GUARANTEE OF QUALITY
This morning I opened up my fourth step inventory workbook, Blueprint for Progress. The first set of exercises addresses honesty. Oh man! How painful is that? I felt a strong sensation in my gut. When I first came to recovery my level of dishonesty was so great, so intense that I wasn’t sure who I was.
I have a history of dishonesty that goes back to childhood. Hiding the truth, distorting facts and just out right dishonesty was a coping mechanism that probably saved my life more than once. This is reality in psychologically violent situations. However, as an adult this coping strategy is maladaptive and has been destructive to my relationships.
The hard part for me is sitting with the fact that I’m dishonest. I can admit to it, but only with a qualifier. I need to justify my behavior. Yes, I lied as a child, but in my house…and so on. I’m trying to just sit with the reality. Yes, I lied. Who did I lie to? Everyone
What I am starting to realize is that there is a difference between justifying my behavior vs. understanding the motivation behind it. They often seem to be the same thing to me. I get confused in this way.
I lie sometimes. I understand that I learned this behavior as a child growing up in a home with a parent that had a borderline personality disorder, abused pain medication and alcohol. Dishonesty was role modeled for me as well. Growing up in a Catholic home I learned that lying was a sin, but nonetheless it became an immediate response in order to keep the peace and to avoid punishment for offenses that were often minor if not just petty. My mother’s emotional stability was often quite fragile. I ducked flying hands, wooden spoons, brooms and clumps of cold wet chicken fat.
I was on edge throughout my childhood and adolescence. I entered adulthood an anxious and agitated personality who startled easy. I learned years later that what I was experiencing was the heartbreak of PTSD. And yes, it is real and one doesn’t have to be a veteran of the military to experience it. My childhood home was a combat zone all of its own.
That is the why; the motivation form where this tendency toward dishonesty emerged. The question is how can I heal this as an adult? Since I’m being honest I should admit that I am not always going to be honest. I am consciously choosing this. It is common wisdom that the “truth will set you free,” but common wisdom often reeks of bullshit. Sometimes the truth puts your life at risk.