Saturday, May 10, 2008

What I check out of the library

“That’s an incredibly depressing set,” said the librarian when I was checking out items at the public library yesterday. “Well, maybe Gandhi…” she added, motioning to the DVD I had in the pile.

I suppose she was right.

I took out Gandhi to supplement my son’s history lessons.

Hiroshima by John Hersey is a compilation of six first-hand accounts of people who survived the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The reportage follows six people right before, during, and directly after the bombing. Yes, the details are gruesome, but the book puts a human face on the statistics that we read. I read this book two months ago, now I’m giving it to Jacob to follow along with a book-on-tape of this book. This is also part of Jacob’s history curriculum.

Sold by Patricia McCormick is about a Nepali girl who is sold by her stepfather into prostitution in India. Although it’s a novel, it’s based on interviews with real women who were sold into the sex slave. I’m going to pre-read this book to see whether I want to include it in my Heartache curriculum.

A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer in an autobiographical account of extreme child abuse. Some of the ways that Dave’s mother conjured up to torture him were beyond anything I’ve ever heard. His alcoholic mother ostracized him from the rest of the family, then tormented him with not only beatings, but starvation, poisoning, and worse.

I had stopped in the library right before my doctor’s appointment. I finally decided to take medical leave from work due to my recurrence of lupus, and I needed him to fill out the paperwork. But the wait to see the doctor was long, and meanwhile I read the first 40 pages of A Child Called “It.” I read the rest of the book before suppertime. It will definitely be on my Heartache curriculum, and I’m going back to the library today to get the sequel, as well as two books that Dave Pelzer’s brother wrote. Apparently after David was rescued by social services from the severe abuse, the mother turned her wrath on the next older son. He, too, wrote about his experiences.

Why am I drawn to these “depressing” books, I often wonder. Is it a morbid curiosity? Why?

By knowing what is happening in other people’s lives can we truly appreciate what we have and perhaps extend a hand to help others in need. Dave’s life would have been different if someone had been kind to him even during his school days, but his classmates mocked him due to his sloppy appearance and stench (his mother refused him a change of clothing or baths) and added more pain to his tormented life. By being educated about the injustices of the world, we can also be more compassionate towards the victims. And ultimately, compassion is what I hope to instill in my children as well as an awareness of the horrors that they don’t experience firsthand.

I grew up in a sheltered, loving home with no exposure to abuse. I thought all families were basically like ours, except that my parents came from a foreign country so we spoke Ukrainian at home. I was in my twenties when I first read about wife beatings and child abuse. I was horrified. Later, after a friend of mine was married and living in another city, she opened up to me and said that her father was an abuser. Her sister would run barefoot through the snow to a neighbor’s house to get away from him. I visited this girl as I was growing up, spent time in her home, and I never suspected… It’s all around us, but the victims usually remain silent.

In my house, I want the victims to be heard.


B. Durbin said...

I've met Dave Pelzer, and the most surprising thing about him is how funny he is. We were running a book signing and the audience was laughing again and again. (I think at one point he was imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

He gets worn out by book tours, and I can see why— he just expends so much energy.

That's the real story, though— he suffered horrible abuse and came out of it with the help of others. His books are all about how to do that. From his perspective, the hardest part is getting the victim to understand that things don't have to be that way, and that they can have control over the future. Once you've got that... well... you get someone who can break the cycle of abuse and raise a family of his own.

The Reluctant Homeschooler said...

Dave has overcome incredible hardship and cruelty. I am amazed at how well he's done. I've now read the sequel to A Child Called "It" -- a book called The Lost Boy. Dave sure went through some tough times. I'm glad he's broken out of the cycle of abuse, but his book still left me wondering why his mother did what she did. How can anyone be so cruel???

SuperAngel said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed your stop.

We read Hiroshima during our WWII unit study a couple years ago. It was a good book.

Prayers and Blessings,
Miss Amanda

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

This is a fascinating post. As a writer of juvenile fiction, I ask myself essentially the same question. Why do I write on depressing topics? My answer is also similar - I think because I lived such a sheltered life, I am constantly trying to sort out the bigger picture which includes so much tragedy. And there is definite the call to respond with compassion.

At any rate, I wrote a related blogpost recently - bemoaning my calling to write about serious topics - just in case you are interested!

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)