“Her work will open your heart and eyes” says Kathy Morelli

Kathy Morelli, on birthtouch.combirthtouch.cam, has posted a new review of my memoir, The River of Forgetting.

The conclusion of the review says:
Ms. Rowan’s story helps raise awareness of the horrors of childhood sexual abuse.
She also inspires us as she shows us that self-growth and self-love are not just worn-out cliches. She walks a path of self-care and perseverance towards emotional growth, maturation, self-reflection and develops her own authentic emotional truth, and her own authentic and spiritual identity.
Her work will open your heart and eyes to the extensive damage caused by childhood sexual abuse. And her long path to healing will inspire you.
 Thank you, Kathy.

Fear of Success, Fear of Failure, and the Inner Child

My Inner Child gets really confused about public success and failure. If I fail, I feel bad and humiliated; if I succeed, my Little Girl is afraid I’ll be shunned. I recently had a show of my abstract paintings in my small home town. It was successful in that other painters were interested in my work and people enjoyed it. Great—but it ups the ante, increases the stakes.

Here’s how I learned about success and failure. My older sister Suzie was first-born in our family and she had Down Syndrome. The doctors told my parents to quickly have a replacement child and put her in an institution. They had me only 16 months after Suzie, and a couple of years later, found a boarding school for her. I was under a lot of pressure to be normal and more—to be “smart enough for two.” I certainly tried. I knew my parents were anxious and I responded by succeeding at school, at piano, at most things I tried.

But at school, which was in a working-class neighborhood, I was under pressure to be “normal” in a different sense—to be not too smart, not too quick. Other kids were quick to sense I was different, with my engineer father and my intelligent mother, the books in our house, the radical politic views. When I got perfect scores on homework and tests, kids let me know they disliked me for it.

I learned it was a narrow walk—that success and “failure” (or making mistakes) were both risky. Either way I was liable to be rejected.

So this art show opened up wonderful things for me but also is scaring me in old, deep places. I want the world to be different from that. I want my world to be a place where everyone’s success is valued, where everyone gets a chance to be herself or himself—this person with a talent for spotting birds, that one good at singing, another person just full of heart and goodness. One way to help that along is for me to truly love and value others in their diversity, and I do, on my good days, I do.

The Talk-Funny Girl: a memorable novel of redemption

The Talk-Funny Girl, by Roland Merullo
We first meet Marjorie, the protagonist of this novel, on the day of her 17th birthday when she starts out to look for work. It's immediately clear that her family is a shambles and a scary place to grow up. It's also clear that she has a strength and tenacity at her core, despite mysterious dark circumstances. The prologue also has told us that the narrator survives and lives well, so we have that solid assurance that we need to follow the often harrowing story.
Only slowly do we learn just what her parents are caught up in and the meanings of some of the punishments, "facing" and "boying", that are constantly threatening our heroine. She became dearer and dearer to me as the ugliness of her background was revealed more clearly. How can she get out of here? She's been raised to believe that all the punishments are part of a true system.
The hallmark of the thoroughness of her brainwashing is the private family dialect in which she speaks. "I come for a try for paying work," she says to a possible employer, and “I couldn’t not say on them” to indicate that she can’t lie to her parents. Her teachers try to correct her speech and, sensing a spark in her, attempt to lead her out of the morass, but her bonds to these abusive parents are so strong that she continues to talk funny and endure the taunts of others rather than try to make a break for it--and where would she go? One of the strengths of Merullo's writing is how he convinces us that a child could indeed be sucked into such a whirlpool (as indeed children are, every day, every year).
Only slowly does our heroine find a way to move out, and the dance of this change in her is the core of the book. In addition, the plot involves revelations about family and church that are startling and frightening, revealing just how far Marjorie has to move to escape. This book haunted me with its redemptive, strong story. I recommend it highly.