Sugarpeach’s guest post prompt: Why did you write a book with controversial topics?
Thank you, Evangeline, for posing such an interesting question. I spent most of the morning pondering a response. I found myself wondering why these topics — child abuse, a relationship between a man and a girl, untraditional family structures, alcoholism, family violence – should be considered controversial.
What is a controversy, anyway?
Controversy: [noun] a dispute about contentious topic, a disagreement on a contentious topic, strongly felt or expressed by all those concerned, or an instance of this.—Encarta Dictionary
Ah, a contentious topic! That’s the crux of the question. What is so contentious about these topics? On what do we disagree? Is there any question regarding their existence? Well – I would have to say yes, there is. We live in a world devoted to myth rather than truth, sadly enough. The myth in this case is that the majority of children grow up nurtured, beloved, cared-for and protected by a devoted set of parents — a mother and a father, playing traditional roles.
Americans cling to their myths, and this one is no exception. The rhetoric of the social conservatives, in particular, plays tremendous lip-service to the myth of the all-American family as they wander with eyes tightly closed across our landscape. They must do; reality seems to escape their notice.
The truth is well-known to those involved in social services. Close to half our children grow up in single parent homes, for instance. One quarter of American youth live in degrees of poverty that should make us embarrassed, but our only response is to cut the funding that support those same children while chiding their parents for their inability to do better. Impoverished parents must add our disdain and disgust to the daily pressures they face.
When it comes to child abuse figures, the numbers are staggering. The official numbers which represent only known cases are bad enough at roughly 25% of girls and 13% of boys, but everyone involved in child protection knows this is but the tip of the iceberg. Less than 20% of all cases are ever reported.
Decades ago, I attended an international conference and listened to experts in the field estimate world-wide figures for child sex abuse as 7 of 10 girls and 4 of 10 boys. And there’s no reason to believe North America measures-up any more favorably than anywhere else. In fact, North America is a major market for exploited children. The FBI published the figure of over 100,000 American children trafficked each year for sexual exploitation, and around 250,000 children are bought and sold on American streets at any one time. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 797,000 reports of missing children in 2010.
But that doesn’t paint the entire picture. 90% of all child sex abuse goes on in the home, what those in the profession call “familial abuse,” with the term family expanded to include extended relatives and close family friends. What goes on in the home is seldom reported to authority.
I’ve met very few women who do not have some tale of sexual misconduct in their childhood, whether it be nothing more than inappropriate touching such as the uncle who fondles bottoms, or forced submission to adult sexual advances. Very few!
Did you note those figures? 70% of girls and 40% of boys will have experienced some form of sexual assault before they are 16. Even those appalling figures are considered conservative. Dated as this information is, I would submit the situation has worsened, not improved.
In the United States, I’ve heard estimates as high as 1 in 3 households suffer from some form of abuse. Nation-wide, police responded to 686,272 calls for domestic violence in 2009, and estimates suggest less than 1% of such cases are ever reported.
Much of this abuse is fueled by alcohol and other drug use. The latest Gallop poll on the subject says 67% of Americans state they are drinkers, with half of these admitting to a problem with alcohol. There are no reliable statistics for illegal drug use, but all social workers agree, alcohol is the biggest social problem we face as a society.
Not a pretty picture, is it? How far removed reality is from the myth.
So, in my mind the real controversy is that we consider such subjects controversial or contentious when the majority of women and a large chunk of men are survivors of our collective blindness, our inability to throw aside our view of “how things should be” and deal with what is.
When I wrote This Bird Flew Away, I wanted to express the reality of one such girl’s journey to adulthood without the rosy-glasses, the denial, the blind adherence to our social fairy tales, because there’s a second side to this “controversy.”
We insist on seeing survivors as anomalies, exceptions to the rule, a few unfortunates removed from the ‘healthy’ majority, whose lives have been “ruined,” who will grow up to become psychotic, twisted, sick individuals likely to become abusers in turn.
How isolating for us survivors! Most of us received no help; many of us never told a soul what was done to us; most of us don’t understand we are not one of a selected few victims but make up the majority.
So isn’t it time we threw aside the blanket of controversy and wrote (or read) about the truth? And the truth is, we do get over it, grow up and get on with life. We heal, for the most part, and for those lingering scars, a story such as This Bird Flew Away helps us to understand. While it may be considered “dark” subject matter, the book is far from dark – because that is the truth, the optimistic, happy truth.
If you had access to my email in-box and could read the messages from so many readers who were moved to share their own stories, this question would have been moot.
Thanks for the opportunity to wax prolific on this subject, and if I haven’t tackled the other “controversy” in the book, the relationship between Jack and Bria, it’s because I leave that up to the reader to decide.
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I enjoyed reading the above guest post. I’ve always had a little clue as to why authors choose to write about controversial topics, but the impact a book with controversial topics holds leaves me glad there are such books! Lynda is giving away one print copy of This Bird Flew Away. This giveaway is open to all residents of US, Canada and UK.
For the mandatory entry, you have to leave a comment here answering this question: Why do I read books with controversial topics?. After leaving the comment, don’t forget to return to this page, click the I DID THIS button, fill in your name and email address, and then click the ENTER THIS GIVEAWAY button.
If you have any questions regarding the giveaway or usage of Rafflecopter, please feel free to leave a comment below. I’ll be happy to answer your questions. If for good reasons, you are unable to enter via the Rafflecopter widget, comment and let me know. I will try to accommodate your request.
What is real love? The whole world wants to know. They should ask Bria Jean, because she has it all figured out. Opinionated, stubborn and full of woe, Bria would tell you real love is having one person you can always count on through thick and thin. For her, that’s Jack. And it doesn’t matter to her that she’s nine and he’s twenty-three-not one bit. When, at the age of twelve, Bria disappears, he and his Aunt Mary search for her, and when she surfaces, injured, abused and traumatized, Jack fights to become her guardian with no idea of the trials ahead of him. By then, Bria is thirteen going on thirty, full of her own ideas on how her life should run and with some very fixed notions about who is in charge.