February 2020: “But I Am Here” by Pamela Bettencourt

This review is going to be a little bit different for a couple of reasons. First, I received this book from the author after receiving an email asking if I would read it and consider reviewing it on my website and in my LiveTweet format. Upon reviewing a summary and the website my answer was a resounding yes. This was my answer because the author is not alone. It was good to know that I’m not alone.

Summary (Caution – Mild Spoilers):

In her memoir “But I Am Here” Bettencourt uses prose poems and free verse poetry to tell the story of her abuse, how it impacted her life, still impacts her life, her attempts to get help, and when she had to make the choice to tell her husband and the world.

The book begins with reflection as an adult, then transports the reader into the mind of a child. In each section the reader lives through Bettencourt’s eyes as she tells these stories without ever using names. Each section concludes with a reflection on the experience from the adult perspective based new insight gained through healing.

Overall Reaction:

In this powerful, moving memoir I ache for the author and her experiences. I feel very passionate about protecting children and helping those that are survivors of sexual abuse. The author does not use complex language, nor does she need to. She hides information appropriately to ensure that the reader experiences each moment the way she experienced it. This amplifies the experience of the book.

I found I had to take several breaks due to the intensity of the material. The book does not hide its content warning. It’s on the front cover. There are resources in the back for those that read it and need help processing any emotions or past trauma that may come up while reading the book. All of this is extremely well thought out.

The amount of vulnerability involved in this writing and the amount of information shared by the author is incomparable to books like “Helping Her Get Free” or “Perfect Daughters” due to the accessibility of the information. Both of these books discuss forms of abuse experienced in childhood and how that shapes adult behaviors with heavy analysis. In contrast, Bettencourt brings the reader inside her own head. We are guided through her thoughts and experiences overtime to see how she got into each head space without going into the academic view point beyond helpful information any reader can understand. This makes the book accessible to a very broad audience.

I am sad that more was not mentioned about the experience of disclosure to loved ones. I believe that part of the purpose of the book was the disclosure. This is both painful and makes complete sense.

In terms of my own personal experiences and what the book brought up for me, I will be brief. For survivors of childhood sexual assault/abuse it is a hard read, but I felt a deep connection. The book takes great care in the reflections shared to connect with the reader’s experiences and own journey, whether these realizations be new or old. It does not try to explain the realizations – they can all be explained to the reader on their own journey by the resources in the back or through therapy.

“But I Am Here” is a painful, beautiful read. Reality is stranger than fiction and child sexual abusers are a great example.

LGBTQA+

I believe this book is absolutely relevant to anyone, including members of the LGBTQA+ community, who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There is no mention of LGBTQA+ individuals in the book, but this does not impact my opinion on this matter.

Grammar & Punctuation

There are a few spelling errors that can easily be corrected in future printings of the book. These errors do not interrupt the overall reading experience.

For More Information On Getting Help

You can visit online.rainn.org or call 1-800-856-4673 (US) – these are mentioned in the back of the book.

Additional organizations that provide information, work to assist in reporting, and help victims and survivors:
https://www.d2l.org/
https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/sexual-abuse
https://thercc.org/get-support/supporting-loved-one/supporting-child-sexually-assaulted/
https://www.dvrcv.org.au/help-advice/sexual-abuse-in-childhood

I would love to expand this list – please feel free to submit additional websites to lopotterwrites@gmail.com

Want To Read More About The Author?
You can visit the book’s website here. For each copy of the book sold through the publisher’s website the publisher will donate $1 to the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. You can follow the author on Twitter here.

2 Perspectives: 1 Event – an examination of 2 poems by Joy Nibbs

In Joy Nibb’s “Ramblings” she presents two poems side-by-side ‘A Vendor’s Complaint’ and ‘The Market’. These two poems, while they can stand alone, are best read together as they provide contrasting perspectives of the value of goods in a marketplace and contrasting value judgements of the people present therein.

In ‘A Vendor’s Complaint’ we hear a salesperson making their argument against bartering, their prices low enough,’

For six cents and not a nickel more…

With the denomination of currency cared about being a nickel, not the penny they so willingly drop to make a sale.

...”Just a nickel and this lovely bunch could be yours”…

The vendor complains about those too poor to buy, and how they provide free rice. How the poor and begging people break them down as they struggle under their debt to make their own ends meet, but they still end up finding a way to give more and more. The vendor speaks of children returning to no home and starving in the night. These people that they give to, that they try to get service in return to make it a fair trade.

The vendor then compares themselves to the beggars by doing this work in exchange for a fair trade in exchange for God to provide them with entrance to heaven once they die. The vendor believes that this trade should make them favored. It could be argued that this negates the acts because these are not acts of selflessness and instead are acts of trying to win favor.

By comparison, in ‘The Market’ we are introduced to one of the beggars, a starving child, Little Timmy, that runs to the stall and steals one of the vendor’s tomatoes. We observe that the market goers argue over that one cent difference of five cents versus six. The vendor is no longer as selfless as they view themselves, but neither are the patrons – they are rude, bickering, griping, snapping. Each arguing over what is “fair”.

A tomato stealthily slides off of the stall, almost unnoticed. The vendor shouts, “Thief!” angrily. The child dashes away, eating the tomato as quickly as he can and makes it away this time. This is all that child eats today. There’s an emphasis that this is survival of another day – there is no end game besides the day to day. As he returns to a cold alley, alone, nothing is left behind. Once the market empties, even after that tomato was consumed as a lost profit to the vendor, the market looks the same, but that child is still hungry, still cold, and still alone.

Yet, the last three lines leave the reader with the enigma that is the abstract concept of fairness.

A profit lost
A profit gained
In the market, it’s all just the same

What do you think? Did you enjoy reading about these poems? Would you like to see more poetry discussion? Feel free to leave a comment!

An Introduction to My Poetry Posts

Let’s talk about Poetry

First, I’m going to go off script. I’ve never reviewed a poetry book before and, honestly, I don’t want to treat this as a critique. I want to treat this as a chance to share this really cool connection I made with someone I’ll probably never meet. On the rare occasion I review these poetry books it’s for my own personal enjoyment only.

Poetry is the most subjective thing anyone can review. I struggled with my poetry classes in undergrad beyond the structure/mathematical parts. It all seemed pretentious. Interpretation? Analysis? Symbolism? As someone that writes poetry it made it so difficult for me to actually enjoy the process because we weren’t discussing anything! I wanted to take the class to read poetry and talk about poetry, not to learn what one person learned one person learned one person thought about this one poem that every person on this planet has read.

That’s where these posts come in.

Poetry is subjective, beautiful, and amazing. It is telling a story in the way music does, except with words. It is painting a picture in the mind’s eye.

It’s not for everyone and that’s okay. It’s one of the oldest art forms and arguably is one of the oldest forms of writing – before verse became more structured with punctuation.

I don’t know how often I will post poetry, but I hope you will enjoy them. My first couple posts will be on selections from two poetry collections:
“Ramblings” A Poetry Collection by Joy Nibbs and “I Hope This Reaches her Too” by r.h. Sin (To best enjoy these discussions, I recommend you purchase the books by following the links or take advantage of the access via Kindle eReader)