I cannot ignore these thoughts about family memory
The title of the book is “The Grace of Silence: A memoir. Given my birth family’s record of passing over family traumas and how it seems to have affected me for most of my adult life, I couldn’t resist noting these thoughts:
Norris illustrates the everyday cost of silence at seemingly minor moments: her mother’s unexpressed anger when a white neighbor cuts down an apple tree rather than let the Norris children pick the fruit from a branch that overhangs their yard. Norris’ failure, at age 26, to muster even a scowl when two white women in an airport misjudge her father, assuming he is a lush rather than a very ill man struggling to maintain his dignity.
Norris acknowledges that there could have been — and perhaps should have been — a more direct response to these incidents. Not speaking out may preserve the image of the “model minority,” but these learned silences prohibit real conversations about race. With learned candor, she describes the corrosive effect of family stories left untold, showing how the denial of painful histories can only contribute to the anger, unease and mistrust of “post-racial” America. We may not hear those stories until we ask for them. But some things simply must be said.
My family issues had nothing to do with “real conversations about race”. But they had a lot to do with the “corrosive effect of family stories left untold.”
My birth family’s denial and setting aside painful histories did contribute to my own anger, unease and mistrust of what my past meant to me. I would venture that we all suffered because of our inability to recognize the hurt of horrible outcomes within our family experience. I know that I suffered the pain of being a displaced child in more than one circumstance. Only now can I say it, accept it and feel that I can forgive my parents and older siblings for what they left unsaid and uncommented upon!
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