Saturday, November 16, 2013

PAX SALON, Tuesday, December 3, 6:30 P.M., Saint Paul Gallery, 943 W 7th Street, St. Paul, 55102

A STORY LIKE TRUTH by Deborah McWatters Padgett
Join us for our PAX Salon, Tuesday, December 3, for a timely discussion of Deborah’s novel that tells a true story about the long-term effects of childhood trauma on those reaching toward a life of thriving.  With the recent fervor to bring perpetrators of child abuse to justice have we forgotten to provide the victims of abuse with a system of treatment and care that will assure they thrive? Lifelong effects are legion and overlooked while perpetrators are paraded before us as if all that needs to happen is to punish the criminals.  Untreated mental illness, suicide & substance abuse are rampant in society partially because of the prevalence of crimes against children. Deborah’s books can be purchased at SubText, Chapter2 Books, Claddagh, Saint Paul Public Libraries and  Visit her blog on resources toward healing at
Deborah, a resident of the West 7th community of St. Paul is a frequent contributing columnist to THE COMMUNITY REPORTER, an avid reader, writer & painter as well as a survivor of childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse in the context of family.  

November 23, 2013

A STORY LIKE TRUTH: Readers' Discussion Guide

Owning Your Story
Writing autobiographical narratives can be therapeutic according to many trauma experts, writers and therapists. Still, “facing the truth” by simply telling the world your story cannot in and of itself heal the inner world of trauma.
We know that early trauma has permanent consequences—you don’t outgrow it, you don’t get over it, the broken parts of the psyche may not be capable of learning anything new. If A Story Like Truth has a lesson to teach, it may be that the rhetoric of victory often masks pain. Ultimately, the only way to affirm the teller’s story is to reach out and to care for it—as we would the little self that is the small child in all of us.”  Miriam Rothstein, Excerpt from review of Deborah Padgett’s A STORY LIKE TRUTH

[Author’s Note:  The author completed her story in 2001 and just prior to publication in 2012 she made editorial changes but did not add details regarding the life of Miriam beyond the point of finding refuge and solace and a forward motion in her living.

{Discussion notes for presentation: Brief discussion concerning “the years since…”   Why are “the years since” an issue? Or are they?}

1.  “Pain is real.  Suffering is optional.”   In a story like truth how does Miriam deal with her pain?
  • ·                          As a child
  • ·                     As a young adult
  • ·                      Finally

2.  Readers have commented about Miriam’s internal dialogue, musing, imagining and intellectualizing.  Why do you think her character was presented this way? What does it say about Miriam’s psychological state and her relationship to others?

3.  What is your understanding of the long-term effects of childhood trauma? Are the effects the same regardless of the perpetrators being home/family or trusted other in clergy/school? What might be the differences?

4.  What resources are currently available to aid in healing victims of abuse?

5.  Do you think more attention should be brought to prosecution & accountability or is the current system satisfactory?  What benefits accrue to victims through prosecution/accountability of perpetrators?

6.  What do you think survivors of abuse are seeking in sharing their stories?

7.  What role does shame play, overall, in stories of childhood abuse? For perpetrators, public, family, the victim?

8.  Were you surprised by Miriam’s letter to her father?  If so, in what way?  If not, how did it make sense to you?

9.   Do you believe society carries more blatant outrage regarding sexual abuse or physical violence toward children?  If a child suffers from a combination of the two are the effects similarly damaging or intensified or something else entirely?

10.  How do the effects of abuse reveal themselves in the lives of the individuals who experienced the abuse?  What kind(s) of support would it be good to bring to bear and/or make apparent to such individuals?

11.  Do you consider yourself to be fully aware of the instances of childhood abuse and the circumstances appropriate as response to its occurrence?  Would you share some of your knowledge?

12.  If you suffered from sexual/physical/emotional abuse would you consider telling/sharing your story?  Why or why not?  As a survivor, thriving or otherwise, do you find help or comfort in the stories of other individuals with similar experience to yours?  Do their stories trigger pain and suffering in you?

13.  One reader added this point for discussion: “victims of abuse usually think it’s their own fault. This often leads to needy behavior later because they always feel that need to compensate for being “bad.”  What about the “Needy” construct?  Do you think that people share their stories, songs & pictures because they are “Needy”?  The desire to be seen and acknowledged as having value perhaps comes into play here.  Some believe freedom comes with a deep-down knowing we have value regardless of acknowledgement.  More often than not it is important to steer clear of people whose message is “you have little or no value.”  Sometimes it is difficult for a person who does not value him/herself to discern whether being dismissed or valued because their emotional filter needs adjustment. 

Consider your own thinking in regard to individuals you know who struggle with mental illness, depression or who have been victimized/traumatized by violence (sexual or otherwise).  Is there an assumption of “neediness?”  When they begin to share their story do you sometimes label them as “needy” as a way to move away from the painful experience of being near them?

Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and even situational Bi-Polar Disorder are often diagnosed in individuals traumatized as children.  In LOSING CLEMENTINE, Ashley Ream’s character with Bi Polar disease says this: “The thing about being crazy is that you know you are even when you can’t do anything about it.  You know how you look to other people, and the shame of it is almost worse than the thing itself.” P. 248

What are your thoughts on the above quote as they relate to individuals recovering from childhood trauma?

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