The Book That Needed to be Written

Elizabeth di Grazia

Elizabeth di Grazia

House of Fire,is a book that needed to be written. I was the one to write it. I didn’t ask for sexual abuse to happen to me. I didn’t ask to get pregnant from brothers. But, I did. Who else could write this book but me? Who else to tell the story of how I came out of the hell that I lived as a teenager? Who else to tell the story of how I created a loving family? Who else to say to others who have gone through similar hells that they, too, can survive and have a good life? Who else to tell them that trauma doesn’t need to define them, that they are bigger than their stories?

The fact is many of us could have written this book. The next time you see a group of children, consider this: 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are a victim of sexual abuse. When a child is raped, 46 percent of the time, the perpetrator is a family member, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice. Those statistics suggest many stories. I hope to open a dialogue to change those statistics – and innocent lives – for the better.

R. Vincent Moniz, Jr.

R. Vincent Moniz, Jr.

House of Fire took me over twenty years to write. It took a lot longer than that for ink to meet paper. But, it did. I tried many forms to tell this story: poetry, fiction, and essays. I kept coming back to nonfiction. This story did happen. This story happened to me.

Healing takes time and work. When the day arrived that House of Fire was to be published, I was ready to stand at the podium as a statement that people can and do survive trauma and their dreams can come true. When you look at me, you won’t see the sexual abuse, the pregnancies, or the trauma. I don’t wear my past as a tattoo. You’ll see me in my allness. My smile, my kindness, my gentleness, and my happiness. You’ll see the peace that I have found.

House of Fire is not a tale of woe. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most of all you will be left with hopefulness.

I invite you join me on September 30th for a powerful night of stories and to celebrate the publication of House of Fire. Sharing the platform with me is a range of successful artists. When I first talked with Sherrie Fernandez-Williams, program director, of the Loft Literary Center she suggested I curate an event to celebrate my publication. I chose the title, Finding Your Bones. Sometimes the only thing of substance left after trauma is you, the bones of who you are. The artists who will be with me have in their own right found their bones and their stories. Wine and appetizers will follow the event.

Keno Evol

Keno Evol

Below are the artists’ bios:

An active force in the Twin Cities artistic community, R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. has received numerous literary awards and fellowships for his writing and live performances. The current and reigning IWPS Indigenous SLAM champion, he has performed spoken word all over the country, and parts unknown. A Nu’Eta enrolled citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes located on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Vincent was raised in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis in the long long ago in the before time.

Poet, essayist and activist Keno Evol is a six year educator having taught at nineteen institutions across the state of Minnesota. He has served as the chair of the Youth Advisory Board for TruArtSpeaks. A nonprofit in St Paul, dedicating to cultivating literacy, leadership and social justice through Hip Hop.

Evol has received numerous grants and competed nationally as a spoken word artist. Evol has been published in Poetry Behind The Walls and on platforms such as Gazillion Voices Magazine , Black Girl In Om, and TC Organizer.

Christine Stark

Christine Stark

Evol has performed, taught workshops and led professional development in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Washington DC, Arkansas, Minnesota and New York. He has gone on to teach Spoken Word poetry in high schools such as Washburn High, Brooklyn Center High, MNIC High, PYC, Paladin Academy, Creative Arts and John Glenn Middle School.

He has appeared on TPT and Urban Perspectives. He navigates noting Patricia Hill Collins as she has stated “My work has always been bigger than my job.”

Writer, visual artist, and organizer, Christine Stark’s first novel, Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation, was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her writing has appeared in periodicals and books, including Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prize-Winning Essays; When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwestern Experience; The Florida Review, and many others. A Loft Mentor Series winner, Stark is currently completing her second novel and conducting research for a nonfiction book.

I hope you’ll join us for an evening of powerful truth-telling.

September 30, 2016 at the Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis

Announcing the Publication of House of Fire – an Inspiring Memoir by Elizabeth di Grazia

“In it together—from inspiration to publication” is the WordSisters theme, and today I want to congratulate Elizabeth on the publication of her memoir, House of Fire (North Star Press, 2016).

Layout 1House of Fire is the realization of a writing dream begun 13 years ago when Elizabeth entered the MFA program at Hamline University. The book is also the culmination of a personal journey that began when she was a little girl growing up on a farm in Western Wisconsin.

From the time she was 4 until she moved away from her family of origin at 19, she was sexually abused. Incest caused two pregnancies, which resulted in one abortion and one adoption. Although the memoir documents those soul-sapping experiences, the book focuses on healing and the transformative experience of creating a healthy family. DSC07148

The path to parenthood was bumpy sometimes, but Elizabeth and her partner Jody were determined and persistent. In 2003, they adopted two infants from Guatemala. Today, their created family is happy and healthy—wonderful in itself—and also a testament to people’s incredible capacity to heal and move from pain and loss to joy. Elizabeth would be quick to tell you that sexual abuse doesn’t have to define a person. She is surviving and thriving.

Although it springs from harsh realities, House of Fire is joyful and inspiring. It’s available in paperback and as an ebook.

 

A Parental Dilemma

by Ellen

In 2000, my son Greg was a 9-year-old Cub Scout. He liked hanging out with the other neighborhood guys, going on field trips, and earning badges. He especially loved the camping trips, which took place nearly every month. THIS was the big reason Greg had joined scouts. We camped as a family, but our trips were pretty tame compared to hanging out with other guys, stuffing yourself with s’mores, telling fart jokes and ghost stories until all hours of the night.

But when the Supreme Court ruled on a case that allowed the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to exclude gays, my husband John and I were upset. The BSA contended that being openly gay is contrary to the organization’s values; however, the BSA says it teaches scouts to respect all people. To me, “respect” and “exclusion” are contradictory terms (respectful exclusion?!?).

Even more troubling was the unstated, but widely accepted, assumption that excluding openly gay leaders would keep our boys safe from sexual abuse. The related assumption was that heterosexuals are less risky around children than openly gay men and lesbian women. Because of the BSA’s fears, rather than the facts, they excluded a lot of good people from scouts unnecessarily. John and I both had worked with gays and lesbians through each of our jobs—people we liked and respected. We were so angry about the policy that we considered quitting the pack in protest.

So we sat Greg down to explain our views. He understood that we opposed the ban, and he could see that it was unfair, but it was all very abstract to him—he didn’t know any gays or lesbians. He said he didn’t see how anything he could do would make a difference. He was only a nine-year-old kid.

Finally, John and I understood that we’d stumbled into a common parenting trap—we were filled with political angst, but Greg was not. He was just a kid, and he wanted to have fun with his friends. In fact, he wasn’t all that clear about what it meant to be gay (men who love men, we’d said). And his grasp of sex and reproduction (learned just the year before) was pretty vague, too.

We realized that quitting scouts would have no impact on the national BSA leaders—it would only punish Greg—so we decided not to leave, but simply to make our views known within the pack. Greg continued to enjoy scouting until high school, when he dropped out because of competing demands on his time.

And the ultimate irony?

In 2009, one of the pack leaders, who’d appeared to be heterosexual and who had cleared the background checks, was charged with sexually abusing some of the scouts Greg knew. He was subsequently convicted and imprisoned. We were all angry that a person the pack had trusted had hurt the boys. We worried about them and the emotional harm the pedophile had done. But we never really felt the pack could have prevented the problem—the pedophile, who had no criminal record, had fooled all of us.

It’s pedophiles we needed to protect our children from, not openly gay men and lesbian women.