On Friday, I opened a tiny manilla envelope and pulled a paperback from its unadorned, nestling spot. I’d been waiting for it without reminding myself to stalk the mailbox. It was an inexpensive gift, a healing Present to myself. I came across it as I panned free Kindle titles and then branched out to other categories of books. It’s old. Yellow leafed. Delicate. And a survivor. Like the women whose stories are captured in its thin pages. All 284 pages. I have heard of the author, a survivor, too. Charlotte Pierce-Baker, PH.D. According to the back of the book, she is a “research professor of English and women’s studies at Duke University. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.”
The book was copy written in 1998 and first published as a Norton paperback in 2000.
Googling her just now, I learned that today she is Charlotte Pierce-Baker, a professor of Women’s And Gender Studies and English at Vanderbilt University. Without knowing her personally, I am proud of her. The picture that accompanied the paragraph identifying her as the author of a new book, “This Fragile Life: A Mother’s Story of a Bipolar Son,” is attractive. There is the same wide, vibrant smile she is smiling in the picture on the rear of “Surviving the Silence.” In her face is a mixture of races, Spanish and African-American, I surmise. Reading further, I learn she is on a speaking/reading tour, and her topic is mental illness/bipolar disorder, something I recently discovered on Facebook, two nights ago, that is hugely affecting African-American women, amongst others. Something that is going silent, untrumpeted, with little to no research to give it a face in the Black community. I discovered that so often it is heralded as a white girl’s disorder amongst Blacks.
Last night, I read several pages into Dr. Pierce-Baker’s book to discover this Margaret Atwood quote:
A word after a word
after a word is power.
It is from “Spelling,” True Stories (Simon & Schuster: New York, 1981), p. 64.
I am a staunch believer in receiving what you need when you need it, via the Divine. Charlotte Pierce-Baker’s book is what I need right now. It is my guide, my holding post, my marker. From it tonight, Saturday night, which has now slipped into a wet Sunday morning, I read the “Beginnings” chapter and Part One: “Personal Narrative.” I couldn’t read the pieces fast. They were heavy, emotion soaked. So I read them slow and them rose to shift my energy, to keep it flowing.
The book’s complete title is “Surviving the Silence: black women’s stories of rape.” Toni Morrison’s endorsement is on the cover. She writes: “A book of such intelligent humanity its shocks strengthen us, and its terrors enlighten us…Demand reading.”
Although I initially intended Atwood’s quote from Charlotte Pierce-Baker’s book to be the powerful sentence in this post, I now know it isn’t. My simple, powerful sentence is, I am a rape survivor, who has decided to shatter the Culture of Silence and leave it like so many shards of glass leading to healing, peace and restoration.