Stunning series in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer about a woman’s healing from being raped.

Rape survivor Joanna Connors talks with a female relative of the man who raped her.

Joanna Connors talks with a female relative of the man who raped her.

I know I almost always write about books, and today’s post is about a remarkable Cleveland Plain-Dealer series by Joanna Connors

Then a theater writer, Connors was raped in 1984 by Dave English while she was on the way to a play. 

She has felt the reverberations since. 

There is much to commend in the series.  The writing is painfully honest, direct and artful.  Connors not only describes the rape in graphic detail, she talks openly about issues of race-she is white, while English was black-and how the rape pointed her in directions and stereotypes she had sought her whole life to counter.

The structure commands attention, too.

In the first entry, Connors moves back and forth in time, building to the rape the reader knows is coming, filling the reader with a sense of impending dread.  Yet the doom is postponed by her moves forward to her life in the present, showing how the event lives on and permeates all aspects of her life: her writing; her parenting; her friends; and her eventually shattered marriage.

Her journey toward healing is neither straight nor fast, but one that she does eventually gather the courage to pursue.  In an ironic twist, she learns that the rapist she decides she needed to see had died several years before in prison.

Connors seeks out English’s family members in Massachusetts,  a number of whom were themselves raped.  She musters the strength to tell them why she has come to meet them and what their brother did to her. 

And, somehow, she finds within herself the compassion to learn about the abusive environment in which English was raised, and, ultimately, to see herself as having had more choice in certain ways than English did due to the abuse he sustained as a child.

It’s a harrowing and powerful journey, accompanied and enriched by photographs and other multi-media content. 

We are the richer for Connors’ having shared it with us.

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