Trigger Warning: Rape and Miscarriage
I wrote a bit of a blunt sentence that made me shrivel up inside and I don't want to surprise you with that today, but I think that it also needs to be said, so instead of deleting it, I am warning you.
I recently recommended a book to a friend not because I thought that she would like it (not really her thing) but because it's one of those books that every time I see it, I pick it up to give to someone who I think needs it or I leave it in the book exchange in my coffee shop with the hope someone will take it home and love it as much as I do. After recommending it, I decided to listen to the audio version. It's been a few years since I've picked it up and I was surprised to find that it didn't take long for some cringe worthy moments to appear.
The book I'm referring to is called Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. I'm actually a really big fan of hers and so far, I have loved everything she has written and I have especially loved listening to her read her writing on audio. Her voice is cool and calming and is the one I hear inside my head when I am writing certain pieces, especially the fictional memoir I've been working on. Anyways, this book is a collections of letters and responses from when she was the voice behind an advice column called Dear Sugar. This woman is so full of beautiful advice for the people who wrote to her. No matter who you are or where you are in your life, there is something in this book for you. She is able to pull so much from her own personal experiences and she is so open and heartbreakingly honest it's crushing.
One letter in particular really got to me today. It was about a woman who had experienced a miscarriage and was really struggling with it almost a year later. Probably because I have been right there as well and I know just how it feels, this woman's letter brought me to tears which if you know me, is a hard thing to do, especially coming from a book. Books do not make me cry and I cried. But. There was a moment in the response where (I really truly think), Cheryl used the wrong word and language, especially now, is so important. There is a very big difference between the word "fucking" and "raping". They cannot be used interchangeably and I think that the word that she should have used in this case was "raping" because fathers cannot fuck their daughters, they can only rape them, There was also a few sentences where she described young girls in a way that young girls should never be described. I do understand that the particular girls she is talking about would use that language themselves and in the context it does make sense, but it felt wrong and I don't want to make excuses for it. She uses a lot of strong, blunt language throughout the book and I totally understand it when she is talking about her own experiences because sometimes you need to be blunt and crass when describing something bad that happened to you to be able to say it out loud, but I couldn't get behind it when she was talking about someone else's experiences.
All of this being said, I still love her and I still love this book. I just didn't want to ignore the thing that made me uncomfortable. I didn't want to pretend I didn't see it or that it didn't bother me, because I did and it does. It's a different time, for sure. This book was written in 2012 and the letter/response even before that. The expectations of how women are treated have changed exponentially over the last few years and we have made strides larger than almost ever before. As always, we still have a long ways to go, but pointing out mistakes like this and learning from them is what is going to get us to the end.
For those of you who haven't read anything by Cheryl Strayed, I highly suggest that you do. Her words remind me of the stories of Jeanette Walls mixed with the poetic prose of Richard Wagamese and I put them all together on the same bookshelf in my mind and...actually my physical bookshelf at home. These three authors have lived different lives fraught with unimaginable circumstances which they have all overcome. As a writer, I can only hope to one day write something with the amount of emotion they convey seemingly effortlessly. I hope that one day, I write something that makes someone sit back and really think about themselves and who they used to be versus who they are now as I did today.
Other Books by Cheryl Strayed - Have you read any? What did you think?