Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Culpability & the beauty that is LIVE THROUGH THIS

So last night, I read Mindi Scott's gorgeous book: LIVE THROUGH THIS. It is amazing. And of course, deals with issues that are very important and powerful. If you aren't familiar with it, the blurb is here:

Live Through ThisFrom the outside, Coley Sterling’s life seems pretty normal . . . whatever that means. It’s not perfect—her best friend is seriously mad at her and her dance team captains keep giving her a hard time—but Coley’s adorable, sweet crush Reece helps distract her. Plus, she has a great family to fall back on—with a mom and stepdad who would stop at nothing to keep her siblings and her happy.

But Coley has a lot of secrets. She won’t admit—not even to herself—that her almost-perfect life is her own carefully-crafted fa├žade. That for years she’s been burying the shame and guilt over a relationship that crossed the line. Now that Coley has the chance at her first real boyfriend, a decade’s worth of lies are on the verge of unraveling.

In this unforgettable powerhouse of a novel, Mindi Scott offers an absorbing, layered glimpse into the life of an everygirl living a nightmare that no one would suspect.

One of my favorite parts of this book is how thoughtfully Mindi addressed the idea of culpability. This issue of whether we are somehow responsible for the things that happen to us. This is a very common theme in much of my writing, probably because it has come up so many times in my life. Those of you who know my story are likely aware of how I was plagued with what I felt like was "my fault" from the time I was a very young child. And this I hear from rape victims over and over again: "what could I have done differently? what if I did this instead...?" And the truth of it is that people WANT that. They want you to have some sort of culpability in whatever happened to you because then it isn't so horrible. It doesn't make us worry about our own children. It doesn't make us worry about our own sisters, mothers, friends. 

It is very easy for us to discuss the rhetoric of "victim-blaming" and how that should never happen, but when you get to the heart of people's fear, culpability is a rock that is almost unbreakable. I STILL hold myself partly responsible for what I happened to me and I've worked as a rape victim advocate for years. And it's not that I think that the perpetrator is less responsible, it's that I want to hold on to the hope that this isn't our world, that sometimes you can do things to prevent violence. I want to think that my children will know better than I. That they'll make smarter choices. But of course, that's ridiculous. Perpetrators will find another way. It is in them. And I have reached a point where I can't hold on to "what ifs" anymore. I can't get behind a victim being culpable EVER because there's just too much evidence to prove that rape and sexual abuse happens REGARDLESS. 

What I loved most about this book was that it didn't give us the answer. It made us exam our own lives, our own feelings, our own values surrounding family and what love is. And the best part is, it leaves you with a sense of responsibility to speak out for those who can't or won't speak for themselves. A subtle but very distinct call to action. Which is one of the best things I hope for in a book. 


Kelley Lynn said...

All right. You convinced me. This is on my TBR list. I'm so glad you share this struggle with everyone, even though it must be hard to do so. It's important its talked about, not buried under the rug.

Katy Upperman said...

I just finished this one too (it's my Bookanista rec for tomorrow) and couldn't agree with your points more. I think Mindi did a fantastic job of handling a very personal and, frankly, taboo issue with thoughtfulness and grace. Plus, she wrote a damn good story. I look forward to spreading the word about this novel, and I'm glad you are as well!

Suzi said...

I haven't read this yet, but I'll have it soon. A local bookstore where she's having a release party is letting us order signed copies from them. So I'm very excited.

Your post is so true. Even though it's important to make smart choices, when it comes down to it, that perpetrator made the choice to hurt the victim. But I can understand how the victims blame themselves sometimes. It's sad, but sometimes your mind just can't let the blame go.

The what if game is horrible because you'll never win.

Jenny S. Morris said...

Oh, I love Mindi Scott. I will have to read this!!!

Sophia Chang said...

You're singing the Asian story, sister. Anytime someone takes advantage of me in big or small ways I can barely talk about it because the first thing I feel is shame and humiliation for either 1) letting it happen 2) not "doing anything". It's horrible how victim-blaming is built into our cultures and into our psyches.

Jolene Perry said...

I DEVOURED this book. So good. I loved every second of it.