Earlier this summer a reader in a small cattle town in a rural Western state wrote a letter on a typewriter and mailed it to my publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York. The letter went on to my editor, Melanie Kroupa, in Boston. She faxed it to me in northwestern California.
Here, with the writer’s permission and with identifying details taken out, is her letter:
“I just read Carolyn Lehman’s wonderful book, Strong at the Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse. I love this book and I found it to be very helpful. I was sexually abused some of my childhood years and when I was 14. I go to the library often and look for books on this subject. There aren’t many, not at my library. When I found this book, at first, I was afraid to read it. I read it with caution, because I didn’t know what to expect. I read the whole book in an hour. I even had to stop and wipe away tears every now and then. This book, the people who wrote their stories…they’ve inspired me to pick up the shattered pieces of my life and move on. It will be a long healing process. This book has helped tremendously.”
When I wrote asking her permission to quote her on this site, she responded in part:
“Please know how grateful I am that you put such a book together–it’s an incredible feeling, knowing that I’m not alone. ”
And isn’t that the heart of it? That feeling of isolation is the worst. Yet we are really not alone at all. We are surrounded by other survivors of sexual abuse. It’s the stigma of abuse that prevents us from connecting with and supporting each other. I’m so glad this reader found an opening at her public library and role models for her own healing.
She also said, “I was amazed that an author wrote to me! A famous person!” (Well, hardly famous.) Authors and editors and publishers are human beings. Her letter let a lot of people involved in the publication of Strong at the Heart know the impact of their choice to publish this book.
She’s right, too, it can be hard to find good resources. Letters like hers give support to those with the courage to publish books that are needed, not just potential blockbusters. I wish librarians and booksellers could hear from readers like her, too.
Here are some of my favorite books and films about healing from sexual abuse.