Trending
MOST READ
SAPD Issues Thousands of Tickets for Homelessness

SAPD Issues Thousands of Tickets for Homelessness

News: Data and records obtained by the Current show that between January 1, 2013, and early October of this year the San Antonio... By Alexa Garcia-Ditta and Elaine Wolff 10/22/2014
6 Sinfully Good Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in SA

6 Sinfully Good Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in SA

Food & Drink: Cheesy Jane’s. Multiple locations, cheesyjanes.com. If the name is any indicator, this San Antonio staple doesn’t mess around when it comes to... By Tommie Ethington 10/22/2014
Alamo Ice House Brings Hill Country to Downtown

Alamo Ice House Brings Hill Country to Downtown

Food & Drink: There was a special kind of draw at Alamo Ice House on a recent Tuesday evening. A handful of weeks after opening its... By Jessica Elizarraras 10/22/2014
A Closer Look: The ins and outs of a few important races

A Closer Look: The ins and outs of a few important races

News: For more than a year now gubernatorial candidates Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott have dominated airwaves and secured way... By Mark Reagan 10/22/2014
‘Walking the Camino’ Explores a Treacherous Trek Through Spain

‘Walking the Camino’ Explores a Treacherous Trek Through Spain

Screens: In the Middle Ages, pilgrims walked the 500-mile El Camino de Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrimage to the tomb of Apostle St. James. It was an... By Stephen James Ross 10/22/2014
Calendar

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Arts & Culture

‘The Other Side’ Tackles the Impossible: Writing about trauma

Photo: Josh Okun, License: N/A

Josh Okun

Memoirist Lacy M. Johnson


The Other Side

By Lacy M. Johnson | Tin House Books | $15.95 | 219 pp

I didn’t take any notes while reading The Other Side because by the time I paused to pick up a pencil, I was already three-quarters of the way through. And for that I feel embarrassed, because I imagine the author, Lacy M. Johnson, a professor and administrator at University of Houston, would have filled the margins if the situation was reversed and she was the reviewer.

Remember a few years ago when it seemed like every other memoir was eventually outed for being at least partially fictional (“embellished” if you’re being gentle)? The Other Side is the opposite in its painful honesty. You can feel Johnson struggle with how much to reveal, if she could stuff it back inside after she’s already spilled it indelibly on the page, whether it’s really true or she’s really a reliable source. Perhaps this is because the story she’s telling is one that women convince themselves never actually happens in real life. The erratic boyfriend always gets dumped before he goes really berserk. People only think they’re being stalked. No one would ever really build a soundproof room meant for raping and killing the ex-girlfriend they just kidnapped. Ex-girlfriends never even get kidnapped in the first place. That shit just happens on Lifetime movies, possibly the odd 60 Minutes segment. It definitely never happens to fiercely intelligent women with liberal arts Ph.D.s … right?

While the content of Johnson’s story (see above) will sickly tickle the same folks who binge watch Law & Order: SVU, her narration will baffle them. The Other Side begins in media res and reels back and forth through Johnson’s life, seemingly willy-nilly. One page she’s living in her first apartment after leaving home, the next she’s worried about her present-day kids, a few more pages and she’s in the thick of that terrible relationship. And there are plenty of passages like this: “The Man I Live With holds up my shirt for them, pinning back my arms. He laughs without smiling, his mouth wide open. Or maybe he is waiting in the hall for the bathroom. Maybe he is drawing me a bath.” She gives no names for people or for most locations.

I think this is mostly because Johnson is writing as much, if not more, about the nature of memory as she is about her own memories, and about the nature of trauma as much as about her own traumatic experiences. Memory is fragmented, not linear, and trauma splinters it further still, because even if one part of us wants to remember something, there’s another more primal force that wants us to forget—the force that keeps us alive. And writing meaningfully about that traumatic experience? It is, in Johnson’s words, “the most impossible thing.”

The Other Side is powerful in its effort to do the impossible. Initially, Johnson’s vagueness in certain details and indecision in others is trying, but that dissipates surprisingly quickly. And for all her pain, there is transcendence. Johnson beat back a lifetime of objectification to become celebrated not for her ex-model looks but for her intellect. She has poignant chapters on motherhood and marriage. Perhaps the bravest thing of all is that she published this book, more than a decade after the kidnapping, under her real name, knowing that the assailant was never apprehended. Her case is still open. But the reader feels that for Johnson, the most debilitating effects of his abuse are finally over.

Lacy M. Johnson Reading

Free
3-5pm Sun, July 27
The Twig Book Shop
306 Pearl Pkwy, Ste 106
(210) 826-6411
thetwig.indiebound.com

Recently in Arts & Culture
  • SA Design Maven D’Ette Cole and the Topography of Junk D’Ette Cole has been an artist, interior designer, antiques dealer and even a pie. Simply put, she notices everything, and has built her career on... | 10/22/2014
  • Failure Is Not an Option: George Lopez returns to SA It is evident comedian George Lopez is still a little sensitive about the on-again, off-again relationship he’s had with television. Whatever the... | 10/22/2014
  • Free Will Astrology ARIES (March 21-April 19): The driest place on the planet is the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. It gets about a half-inch of rain per year. And yet in 2011, archaeologists discovered that it’s also home to a site containing the fossilized skeletons of nu | 10/22/2014
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus