shame. noun. a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour:
- His face burned with shame.
- She hung her head in shame.
- He could not live with the shame of other people knowing the truth.
- I would die of shame if she ever found out.
The first feminist book I have read this year to fulfill my pledge at the Hiding Spot2013 Feminist Reads Challenge is ‘Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the stories that kept us small.’ This is an anthology by 28 assorted female writers, edited by Amy Ferris & Hollye Dexter.
Shame is an inherently human emotion ( a fox feels no shaming for brutally killing a rabbit) and one that can hide in the recesses of our consciousness for a lifetime. Shame can alter our core self-esteem, making us vulnerable and so many aspects of our lives can be negatively affected. Shame is also oftentimes transferred onto us by others, be they family members (which occurs frequently in this book), acquaintances or society as a whole and this is commonly done to keep us quiet about our transgressions (real or otherwise) and made to feel small. But as these stories prove, the shame we carry deep within the shadows of our soul can be diluted by sharing it with others, and with any luck, release the bearer of her burden.
This book is a banquet of emotions, filled with dark details and lonely depths but one which is ultimately cathartic. The stories inside are many things including poignant, tragic, human, profound, hopeful and most especially loving.
Recently I read the quote “I write to give testimony. I read to bear witness” and that sentiment has never felt truer to me than when I read this book. I was bearing witness to the shame felt by these courageous writers who entrusted me with their stories. Stories as harrowing as being sexually abused as a young girl, having an abortion at the age of eighteen, and walking away from an adoption when a child became available, and all are stitched together with honesty from the author and trust towards the reader. This book is at once heavy in theme and substance yet made lighter for the reading; a necessary step on the road to enlightenment. As I alluded to in the title of this post, I am grateful and wish to express my intense thankfulness to the authors for allowing me the privilege of reading their words and sharing their lives. I would like to be the kind of person that could admit my shame publicly, but even after reading this graceful tomb I am unable to follow the intrepid example of these talented writers. (Does this mean my shame is compounded?)
I quite enjoyed the extra page at the end of each story with a blurb about what the author hopes the reader takes away with them. I was piqued by my takeaway being different to what the author had hoped on more than one occasion, which made me appreciate how the art we create can be interpreted in so many different ways by others.
If you have the opportunity to read this book, I highly recommend you do so. If you’re anything like me you will be given the gift of intense emotional impact and may even find yourself wiser, kinder and more empathetic as a result.