No one goes unaffected by the dreams and failures of our ancestors. In events played out before one is even born, our stories have already begun. Lillian Moats' evocative fictionalized memoir traces the lives of three women whose stories indelibly blend into one during the span of three generations. Intensely moving and untimately hopeful, the story evolved from the author's exploration into the mysterious impact of family history on her own psychology. Moats' distinctive literary style is as much poetry as prose. Conveying psychological nuances in few words, she adopts the format of the journal rather than the novel to explore the legacy of unresolved emotion passed from generation to generation.
|Publisher:||Three Arts Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.37(w) x 7.55(h) x 0.88(d)|
About the Author
Lillian Moats is a writer, artist, and film-maker. The award winning animated art films she has produced with her partner, JP Somersaulter, have appeared in festivals around the world. Selected films are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Moats earned critical acclaim for her previous book, The Gate of Dreams, a collection of stories for all ages which she wrote and illustrated. She lives near Chicago with her husband and son.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 2: Toronto. March, 1926
Painting beneath the skylights at the academy, I cast shadows. I stand out in three dimensions, don't I? It seems I amuse my professors. "She can capture anything we put in front of her," I've heard them say. "Everything's easy for Lisbet."
If only they could see me here at home where nothing's easy, and no one sees me. Martin's gone. The twins, grown discontent to be my dolls, have forged their own iron wills. And I lack my mother's skill to make them want to please me.
Father had me gather Mother's clothes to give away. And yet, he singled out one dress to keep. I puzzled at his choice: the slate gray woolen jersey - long sleeves, high neck, a deeply gathered skirt. It was neither the prettiest, nor Mother's favorite. Now, it hangs in her empty closet - like a woolen shadow.
Tonight, after my chores, I bent my head into Father's room to whisper goodnight. There he was, squeezing the shadow in his arms. I knew at once he'd picked the dress that could best enfold him, the one that could almost return his embrace. Father didn't see me waiting at his door. He'll never speak of this. And I will never dare to. The moment will be closeted with all the others we might have shared.
At the academy, I stand out in three dimensions, don't I? But here at home, Father sees more of a person in Mother's empty dress than he has ever seen in me."
What People are Saying About This
|"This book will hold its readers close and tight, will teach them its remarkable, affecting and important lesson: that experiences live and last over a family's generations as memories that shape hearts and minds."
Robert Coles, Author of The Moral Life of Children, The Call of Stories, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning series Children of Crisis
"If psychiatric case histories could include the poetic imagery and richness of metaphor that seem to flow so easily from Lillian Moats, I think we would be better communicators, maybe also better healers."
Robert C. Murphy, M.D. Psychiatrist. Author of Psychotherapy Based On Human Longing and The Unconscious.
"Moats has performed an act of remarkable courage and generosity that is likely to be of immense benefit to more readers than she would ever have imagined. Legacy Of Shadows is no less than a great gift; a beautiful and profoundly moving tapestry of crisis and connection, forgiveness and healing."
Kathleen E. McCrone, Ph.D., Executive Dean, College of Arts and Human Sciences, University of Windsor.
"More a journey through a dream than a journal, more meditation than memoir, Lillian Moats takes us on a voyage into madness that veers decisively toward the redemptive power of reflected love. Sensual, evocative, disarming, Legacy Of Shadows speaks to our imaginations and our hearts, our spirits, our souls. As we peer into this one fantastic life, this finely drawn prose poem invites us, finally, to think differently about our own."
William C. Ayers, Professor of Education/Senior University Scholar, University of Illinois at Chicago. Author of A Kind And Just Parent.
"In one slim volume Lillian Moats has taken me on a journey that visits the constraint of despair and the release of hopeful possibility. With poetic artistry she depicts three generations of women who struggle with life's great mysteries: birth and motherhood, love and career, contribution and fear, death and art, madness and duty, unity and diversity, illness and hope, and more. In so doing, Moats' art has the power to awaken insight about such mysteries for all who experience this beautiful, reflective journal."
William H. Schubert, Professor of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago; Vice-president, American Educational Research Association.
With these words as introduction I began, twelve years ago, to write a factual account of a desperate emotional breakdown - my own. Though it was well behind me, I hoped that probing its mysteries would protect me from a recurrence of the horrific symptoms which had seemed to strike from nowhere. As I reopened my past, I was overwhelmed by memories and startling insights. Eventually I came to understand that my illness had not been mine alone, but the inexorable culmination of a story set in motion with the death of my grandmother's two-and-a half-year-old child, eight decades earlier. Stunned by this discovery, and torn by issues of accuracy and privacy in relating the lives of others, I put my writing aside.
But the story would not let me go. In exploring the particulars of my psychological history I had awakened, ironically, to its universality. Understanding the causes of my prolonged fragmentation ended my feeling of isolation, reconnecting me to the human family. I realized that the severity of my symptoms cast in high-relief a pervasive but illusive truth: that each of us is deeply directed by the legacy of unresolved emotion passed from generation to generation.
The book you are about to read is very different from my original attempt. Years after I abandoned my documentation, I approached the work as fiction, giving myself license, at last, to broaden the scope of the story beyond my own lifetime. I began to project myself empathically into the minds of the two women whose lives had funneled into mine, calling up images which might have captured their emotions at pivotal moments in their lives. A reader searching for the sensational will not find it in these pages; the story is not one of abuse, but of the best parental intentions gone awry - the most common of all human tragedies.
To release my unconscious understanding of an emotional legacy so deeply silent and encoded in symbol, I needed to call upon metaphor and meter. The resulting work is as much poetry as prose. Focusing on the interior lives and perceptions of a mother, daughter and granddaughter in turn, I adopted the format and intentions of the journal rather than the novel. As a granddaughter's transformation of family tragedy, Legacy of Shadows is an expression of faith that in our deepening self-knowledge lies the hope of liberation for ourselves and our children.
Lillian Moats, 1999