a memoir by Christine M. Ristaino
Description: I have heard stories from victims since my late teens. Initially I listened, but never knew how to react. When a man beat me up at Target in front of my children, stories of survival became part of who I was. Overnight I was a member of a community. Stories tumbled into my pathway, one after another. These conversations led me to explore my own history with violence. I had been date raped when I was in college, held down by arms much larger than mine. And there was one event I had kept inside for years; a man had molested me. I hid this story, even from myself. It barely affected me, I reasoned. But more than twenty years later in a Target parking lot, seeing my children’s faces during our attack jolted me awake.
Need: According to the CDC, violence causes more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide every year. Many others survive violence and are left with permanent physical and emotional scars. In 2012, an estimated 1,214,462 violent crimes occurred in the U.S. alone. To add to this, “Rape in America,” a National Victim Center publication, states that most rape and sexual assaults are underreported because of shame, fear, and “deep-seated cultural notions that the woman is somehow to blame.”
Today violence is a very real and heavy presence in our world: Ferguson and institutional violence against blacks, violence toward immigrants in detention centers, increasing incidents of sexual assault on college campuses, on-going reports of school shootings. All the Silent Spaces will help us start the conversation on how we can bear witness to each other’s personal stories about violence. I hope readers will take away the idea that one option for moving forward from violence, oppression, racism, loss, or any other traumatic event, involves talking about and acknowledging what we’ve been through.
Intended Audience: This memoir is not about what a person knows at the moment a trauma occurs, it’s about all those things she doesn’t know about herself that day. It’s not about an epiphany. It’s not a solitary reflection on what should or shouldn’t be. Instead, it’s about a limited human being working it out, a woman dealing with an acute trauma in the middle of the everyday mundane. It’s about the unraveling of a life and the rebuilding of one afterward, an event that forces the author to look at past events, at first dimly, as though just waking up, and then with more clarity, until a new sensibility emerges. All the Silent Spaces is about changing the dynamic of a life, the emerging of a voice.
As a result, the market for All the Silent Spaces includes anyone interested in confronting difficult topics, healing from trauma, or navigating the complex interactions that make up our everyday life. It is also a book for readers interested in memoir, race, ethnicity, and coping with violence. The book takes an unflinching look at race from a white person’s perspective.
All the Silent Spaces is a watershed book for Generation Xers. In an article entitled “Why Doesn’t Anybody Care About Generation X?” Carol Howard Merritt states, “Many in Gen X are annoyed that we’ve spent a lifetime living under the looming Boomer shadow, and now we’re getting swallowed up by Millennials.” All the Silent Spaces fills an important niche in our market, the Gen X women and their untold stories. All the Silent Spaces is written by a member of the first cohort of gen-Xers, a group of women in their 40s, often with children. According to Merritt, “We can’t blame others for our detachment. We will need to join in common action—whether it’s within existing structures or with movements that we create.” All the Silent Spaces will give voice to a generation of women who are addressing the issues and experiences of middle-age in bold new ways; there is a whole underrepresented audience wanting to see their reality reflected in the books they read.
Competition: All the Silent Spaces confronts many social issues as it leads the reader on the journey of re-claiming a life. The memoir’s honesty makes this a powerful story that will move those who have been affected by violence, racism, or family secrets. As far as attracting mainstream readers, All the Silent Spaces has the emotional draw of books such as Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies, Lucky by Alice Sebold, The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken, and Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self by Susan Brison. What draws me to these books involves the authors’ raw descriptions of how their lives fell apart after a singular event, and how they discovered or rediscovered their voices, something All the Silent Spaces also accomplishes. All five of these books describe what it’s like when part of you dies and you must rebuild; when catastrophe sends you whirling out of control until you land in a new orbit and anchor yourself there.
Yet calling attention to the process of writing itself separates All the Silent Spaces from the other books I’ve mentioned, for this type of writing allows the reader to authentically experience the confusion and vulnerability that accompanies moving through difficult moments. During this process, All the Silent Spaces doesn’t start out with the answer. It’s not a polemic about the necessity of sharing. The author starts out like everyone else. But very slowly, over years, she is able to look at and confront something that was buried. All the Silent Spaces is for those of us who are in denial and estranged from ourselves, often living in a pressure cooker of self-scrutiny. The memoir also moves between the greater issues associated with trauma and the very personal voyage of overcoming grief, never taking its eye off of the larger picture. At no time does the voyage become only about one trauma as the memoir moves between the author’s own consciousness and the larger social justice issues around violence, racism, and identity in a changing world.