However, one response in particular really hit all of my personal bells.
I wanted to share the part(s) that struck me most here.
The first spot to really shock me awake was her insight about compulsive reading. I often find (and many others wrote about this) that I read mindlessly, intensely, and that's even reading "good literature."
Here's Kara's insight on this that struck home for me:
I grew up as one of those quiet shy girls with my nose in a book. I actually resisted reading at first. I remember in first grade being behind. Then something happened. I know my sister gave me The Little House on the Prairie books in second grade, and the next thing I know, I began tearing through books. I kept reading, and did it a lot. Compulsively. These were my video games.It's that last set of lines that hit me. That would have been enough. So articulate. But then she went on to describe something I have NEVER heard anyone else describe: assuaging grief with horror. When my father died, I read all of Stephen King, a fair amount of Peter Straub and the like.
Here we go with Kara's passage that blew me out of my seat:
Holy shit. I thought.Then, in the middle of fourth grade, my father died. Reading was my escape. My head hit the clouds even more often than normal. My tastes turned to horror. I remember picking up Cujo by Stephen King that spring. I was hooked as I was transferred to that stalled car where the mom and boy were trapped for days because the crazed Cujo would eat them if they tried to get out. I feel hot and sweaty just thinking about it like they were in the book. And the fear and desperation.But horror? I can't say any of it really horrified me. I think that the profound loss made me feel so different, so apart from my peers. And I took in as many books as possible as both my escape from my life but also to see if I would find anything so shocking or hurtful to my system as my father dying.
That's why I was doing that. I never knew why.
My mother got into reading mysteries when my dad died - trashy, easy ones, though she'd previously only been into Literature (note the capital L).
When I asked her why, she said it was because at least she had a reason for why someone died at the end.
Here's the thing:
My mother and I went in opposite directions. She tried to escape, to explain. I tried to threaten, like Kara says - daring the world of horror to show me something worse than my father's death.
In fact, I got into the Holocaust (my dad died when I was in 7th grade, versus her 4th grade, and we were just being introduced to WWII). I think what I was doing with the Holocaust - being obsessed with it, looking for images to freak myself out and never finding any that really pierced my pain - is the same as what she (and I) was trying to do with horror. Just daring it to make me feel as awful as I did about my dad's death.
And it never did, even though reading endlessly about real-life genocide and fake-ass horror both freaked me out. Still couldn't touch the confusion and personal pain of my father's death.
A German friend called me out on this in my 20's - noted that my strong obsession with the Holocaust really had nothing to do with the Holocaust, though neither of us could have known why or exactly how at the time. I am still reeling from not just what Kara said but how she said it. So clearly known and articulated.
I often encourage students to appreciate instead of envying.
In this case, I am so appreciative to Kara for writing what she wrote and sharing it that I am glad she wrote it, so well, so clearly. I don't wish I had figured it out myself, or I had written it. I am just glad that someone else was able to articulate it, even if, as Kara expressed to me in sending me her writing, neither of us are glad another person had to go through what we both went through.