Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recoveryby Patricia Weaver Francisco
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She invites the reader into her life and into the questions raised by a crime with no obvious solutions or easy answers. We see the dimensions of a human struggle often kept hidden from view. While there are an estimated twelve million rape survivors in the United States, rape is still unspeakable, left out of our personal and cultural conversation. In Telling, Francisco has found a language for the secret grief carried by men and women who have survived rape.
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The light cast by the red lamp near Andre's bed is too low for reading, so I switch on the glowing globe that illuminates a green and pink world. We arrange ourselves on his narrow bed in the corner, settle down to read Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen." Andre slouches beside me, willing to nestle close, to let my arm drape around his body as I read.
"Is this going to be boring?" He eyes the thick book, suspicious of the dreamy cover illustration of a girl riding in a golden coach with a huge black crow.
"Maybe in parts," I defer, willing to force this tale on him for my own purposes. There are some words I want him to take in deeply. "This story is told in seven parts. We'll go slow, just a bit at a time. By the end, we'll know the whole story."
"Will it be scary?"
"Only in the beginning."
He sinks lower.
"You know, it's about a girl and a boy who are best friends--like you and Sofi," I continue in the voice of the supplicant. He has begun to resist the books I endorse with my enthusiasm. The bedtime story hour belongs to him. "The boy gets lost and the girl tries--"
"Does she find him?" He sits up a bit, resting on his elbows.
"That's the mystery part."
I can see by the way he collapses back onto the bed that I have just responded badly. I ignore him, loving his dear face in the light of the glowing world. I know this story. He is my son, and I want him to know it, too. For "The Snow Queen" is a story of the journey back, rendered as dramatic and harrowing as the event that precipitated the loss. It's a complicated journey, longer than any tale we're used to. The heroine makes mistakes, finds help in strangeplaces, never stops looking for what's been lost. I begin at the beginning.
"The Snow Queen"
by Hans Christian Andersen
The First Part,
which deals with the mirror and its splinters.
Well, now, let's begin--and when we come to the end of the story we shall know more than we know now! There was once a wicked demon--one of the very worst--the Devil himself! One day he was in a really good humour because he had made a mirror which had the power of making everything good and beautiful reflected in it disappear almost to nothing, while all that was bad and ugly to look at showed up clearly and appeared far worse than it really was. In this mirror the loveliest of landscapes looked just like boiled spinach, and even the nicest people looked hideous or else they stood on their heads and had no bodies.
The story goes on. The Devil's students at the School for Demons try to take the mirror to heaven to fool the angels, but it slips out of their hands and falls to earth, splintering into billions of pieces. Some of the pieces are as small as a grain of sand and fly into people's eyes to make them see only what is bad in the world. And some get caught in people's chests, turning their hearts to ice.
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Meet the Author
Patricia Fransisco teaches creative writing in the MFA Program at Hamline University. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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