I had the opportunity recently to read for review a copy of Bea Todd’s Appalachian Child: The Chronicles of an Abused Child and Her Journey to Survival. As always, when I first agreed to review it, I planned on getting it done earlier than this, but life and work got in the way!
Bea’s book is a memoir of her childhood in rural West Virginia. Not only was her family dealing with the abject poverty that was common in that area during those years, but they were also dealing with the violent rage of her father, taken out on his wife and children on a regular basis. In that regard, it’s like many other memoirs, sharing her story, and how it affected her, physically and emotionally, for years afterward. It’s written in a consistent timeline, which was a little hard for me to relate to. I’ve written before in reviews that I related to memoirs that seem somewhat haphazard, jumping for an event that occurred at the age of 5, to one that occurred at 13, back to 4, etc. That’s how I remember my own childhood, in bits and pieces. Bea, obviously, can organize her memories into a consistent timeline, which just goes to show that we are all impacted in different ways. Still, despite the organized nature of her memories, they are still a powerful example of overcoming abuse and going on to live a successful adult life, which we all have hope for!
The one thing that I found very interesting was Bea’s admission that part of writing the book was an attempt, a failed one at that, to find an explanation for her father’s behavior. I find many survivors who struggle with trying to find this sort of explanation, as if by understanding their abuser’s behavior would somehow allow them to let themselves off the hook for being abused. (i.e. “The abuse was a result of “this”, not because I deserved it…”) It just goes to show how deeply the shame runs through all of us who have survived abuse, and how much we, as children, believe we deserve whatever happens to us. That’s the real sickness, above and beyond what is done to us physically, it’s being told, over and over again, that we are only getting what we deserve.
Healing is all about overcoming that belief. I truly believe that, and Bea makes it a large part of her story as well.
Also, Bea includes at the end of her story a collection of her Momma’s recipes. If you’re not familiar with some of the really great cooking tips that get passed down from generation to generation in that part of the country, you should definitely check that out as well. Despite my very cosmopolitan background, my wife’s family is in large part from this same part of WV, and I know for a fact how much knowledge gets passed down, and how much a good cast-iron skillet can be worth to a family! 😉
You can get the book from Amazon, here.