It's true, there is "Leaving a Legacy of Equality and Hope" at LitReactor and there is interview with D.W. Hogan, Grace Agnew, Trish McDonald, Emory Easton & Maria Price respectively. I had this to say in the introduction about the authors: "[they] found their voices while crafting memoirs and novels focused on a range of contemporary issues—climate change, sexual fluidity, adoption, abortion rights, abuse, loss and grief—that emerge from, and shine a light on, the trauma so prevalent in the world as we know it." You can read the interview in its entirety here and some excerpt below. Cool? Totally, I know. Enjoy.
Whether writing literary fiction, science fiction or memoir, you all write about trauma. You also write about experiences that can impact men, women, the nonbinary or gender fluid. Yet your work feels uniquely female to me. Do you agree, and either way, how important was it for you to share these stories?
MARIA: As the reader delves into the physical and psychological traumas of an unexpected stillbirth and its aftermath, it becomes clear that Love You Still is unmistakably written from a woman’s perspective. The death of our daughter clearly impacted me, as her mother, but Julia’s loss and the events that unfolded before and after also had significant impacts on her father, grandparents, brother, our family, friends, the professionals who served us, and even strangers. Their stories, reactions, and perspectives are woven into the story as well. Stillbirth is not solely a women’s issue—it’s much more than that. Death is universal, and we grieve deeply when we have loved deeply. I think this is part of the reason why our story is so important to tell. For many years, women have been made to feel as if they are to blame for miscarriages and stillbirths and that they need to carry shame in secret. Bereaved families have not been given the grace to grieve or even discuss the heartbreak that they have felt. My purposes in sharing our story are to honor Julia, to say her name, and also to give grace to others to know that they are not alone or at fault. We grieve because we loved our children well, and that we continue to love them still.
GRACE: I think there has been the assumption—and all assumptions are rooted in some sort of experience—that women relate most to the emotions of a trauma while men relate more to the facts. This is a very broad generalization, but in the traumas I have experienced—losing loved ones, many natural disasters (the inevitable result of growing up in Louisiana), the disappointment of a marriage breaking up or the loss of a job—the men I know seemed more interested in analyzing the why of it, while the women felt free to be swept away by emotions. When my beloved grandmother, the matriarch of the family, died in a fire, my uncles were gathered in the living room discussing what she could have done to save herself, while my mother and aunts put together a potluck lunch, shared memories, and cried. I was only six, but it was clear to me that the women would move on more easily for grieving openly, while the men were stuffing something away—perhaps the guilt that my grandmother had died burning trash, a chore the uncles who lived nearby should have handled—that they would have to unpack someday.
While I believe there are different ways of handling trauma, and some ways come easier to women and other ways perhaps easier to men, there is one trauma that blasts away any learned or expected ways of handling it, and that is a threat to your child. I think any parent feels everything—anger, fear, sorrow, panic, steely resolve, the whole repertoire in fact—when their child is threatened. And while climate change threatens us all, the greatest threats fall, unfairly, on the next two generations—our children and grandchildren. While the primary characters are a mother and son, the parent-child relationship is the central, animating relationship for most characters in the story, the good and the not so good. It is the one relationship that doesn’t care about your defenses or learned behaviors and it is why the stakes for climate change are so high for all of us.
We all care a lot that we have already lost upwards of a billion birds to climate change, that polar bears and elephants are on a sad, inexorable march toward extinction, but only the idea that our descendants may follow them is unbearable. Florida reopened Disney World and its tiki bars with hardly a murmur in the height of the COVID pandemic. Business is business, and adults know the risks. But when the governor issued the no mask mandate for schools, we saw the first serious opposition, by parents on both sides of the political spectrum, to protect their children. So while I might agree in many cases that driving straight to the emotional core of an existential trauma like climate change is possibly a feminine approach, I would also state it depends on the nature of the threat. In any species, a threat to the child is paramount, and neither sex hesitates to throw their own life into the balance to save their child. Threaten a lion cub, and you won’t have time to wonder if the animal attacking you in return has a mane. And you will realize, as you are dying, that it didn’t matter.
RHONDA: My work is uniquely female because it is my memoir and I am a woman who had a lot of abuse in my past. It was a cathartic experience telling my story. It speaks to all genders in a way that can help them understand abuse, neglect, shame, pain and guilt in their own lives.
TRISH: Kat McNeil, after a brutal beating by her father, makes a fateful decision at twelve years old to be perfect. She would smile, get the boys, make people love her. This resolve will go on to define her life. “I lost my voice that day, under the blue satin quilt,” she says. Fifty years later, lying on a blanket she wove with her stitches of perfection, an intervention occurs where she is surrounded by love. As Kat begins to relax, a healer places her hands on Kat’s head and neck, gently massaging her shoulders. From this loving touch, something inside her breaks. As Kat struggles to breathe, she feels vines choking her throat. It’s through this body pain Kat begins to understand her reticence to speak up, to stand up for herself, to talk back. Her trauma from childhood has been lodged in her throat. Paper Bags is an important story for the 67% percent of American adults who have adverse childhood experiences, known as ACEs (Kaiser Permanente/CDC Survey.) Research suggests that not only does the trauma pain reside in the body, it literally becomes biological. Trauma, if not healed, can result in disease and even early death. My decision to use fiction to tell this tale of trauma is a belief in the power of story to create change. I hope readers will ask themselves some of the curious questions I pose, and will explore their own early life experiences with a sense of wonder.
DAWN: Unbroken Bonds is definitely uniquely female. It has to be. It is about young women who are faced with the consequences of unplanned pregnancy in an era when they had very little control over their own reproductive health. During my research about the Baby Scoop Era and the secretive homes for unwed mothers, I felt very strongly that this was a story that needed to be told. It seems even more vital today, when we just had the Supreme Court uphold a Texas law that punishes women who choose to have an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, at approximately six weeks. Many women don’t even know they are pregnant this early. In recent years there have been unrelenting attacks on Planned Parenthood. But what these seemingly good intentioned pro-life people ignore is that Planned Parenthood is much more than an abortion clinic. They provide health care, birth control, counseling, cancer screening and many other services, especially to underserved communities. If we do not know the history of women’s reproductive rights and allow the advances of the last 50 years to be abolished, we will find ourselves back in a time when birth control is only accessible to those who can financially afford it. Abortions will continue to be performed, unfortunately, we will be back to the days when they are dangerous illegal back ally butcherings that are life threating. We will see a dramatic rise in teen pregnancy and unwanted babies that will swamp an already broken foster care system.