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Zhara Jaffrey

English 391W

December 20, 2010

Final Paper

                                    Kathryn Harrison- A Trustworthy Autobiographer

            The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison is an autobiographical memoir. An autobiographic memoir is written by a person themselves; it is a record containing intimate knowledge of them and is based on their own observations, it is the truth. Autobiography is a very new genre in writing and it is thus questionable, what one can and cannot consider a part of this genre. Some critics claim that Harrison’s autobiography was not published for the correct reasons, while others also claim that Harrison should not be considered to be a reliable narrator nor trustworthy. Both of these criticisms can be considered to be true but, once one takes a closer look at some of these claims they can also oppose this idea and say that because of the manner in which Harrison writes she a reliable and trustworthy narrator.

            I will argue that critics are wrong in making claims that Harrison is an unreliable and untrustworthy narrator, and that her reasons for writing this autobiography were wrong. Harrison includes many fairytale aspects in her autobiography; this does not mean that her story is a tale. The fairytale aspects in the autobiography are not necessarily included to show that the writing was properly thought out and for fame but, in order to represent how she feels about certain events in her life. They are the ways in which she wishes to see life and wishes that life was, but unfortunately it is the opposite. Another reason for the fairytale aspects being in the novel is the fact that Harrison loses much of her childhood in the deprivation of love from her parents, the fairytale aspects are a way to regain some part of her childhood that may still be with her.

            Eakin writes that there are three laws which need to be followed in order to be a reliable autobiographer, according to him the first is telling the truth, the second is “infringement of the right of privacy [and the third is ] failure to display normative models of personhood.” These laws are what Eakin makes the claim off of, that Harrison is breaking some of the laws. If the rule of truth telling is broken there is no autobiography because the “truth telling” is part of the definition of autobiography.

 The second rule is the infringement of the right of privacy; “damage to one’s reputation” as Eakin defines it. In The Kiss this is one of the first laws that the reader observes to be broken, although, as Eakin mentions is comes at odds with truth-telling. (Eakin,114) Harrison’s telling of this truth about the sexual abuse that she experienced with her father in order to receive love damages his reputation and thus breaks the second rule. She not only exposes her father but, also her children, her step mother and step siblings. As Eakin tells his readers, Harrison was praised for her honesty but, at the same time criticized for victimizing her two children to the truth and horror of her past. Harrison broke this code of law and is thus considered unreliable but, because she broke this law she should be considered more reliable. Critics claim that she was a sophmore at college thus she should have had power over herself, but she shows herself as a victim. They make the claim that she “manipulating” the reader by breaking the law into making herself seem to be the victim.

            The final rule of  “failure to display normative models of personhood,” is also considered to be broken by Harrison. This is due to the taboo topic that Harrison writes her memoir about; incest. She fails to display a normative natural lifestyle. The lack of her parents love and affection to her, the fact she only sees her father twice before their liaison begins and that her mother does not acknowledge her, “If I wake her, she doesn’t talk to me. She stalks around the room as if enraged, a wild astonished look on her face. I make myself small”(8). He mother ignores her, avoids her, and her father only enters into her life once she has developed and only wants one thing from her. Although it is considered that Harrison fails to show normative models of personhood because of the fact that there is a taboo incestuous relationship that is the focus of the autobiography, Elizabeth Marshall says “one of America’s most popular misconceptions, especially in the white middle-class family, is that father-daughter incest is rare occurrence. The crime of incest often goes unreported and unpunished in part because of a cultural silence” (College English,403). Harrison’s inability to show her live in a normative manner is another reason she is said to be unreliable, but in order to follow the first law of truth telling it was necessary for her to break the latter two, because she breaks these rules she should be considered to be reliable. She is not constricted within any boundaries and tells the complete truth.

Lisa Alther makes the claim: “Telling the truth about what one has undergone—whether in therapy, to a friend, on the written page, or in confessional—is one way people struggle to recover from trauma, and The Kiss bears the hallmarks of just such attempted exorcism” (Alther, 34). From this claim one learns that in order to recover from a trauma one needs to either, go to therapy, write it down, give a confession, or confide in a friend, in Harrison’s case she decides to take the risk and write it on paper and have the world learn about her secret. Alther’s idea allows one to confirm that although in order to write an autobiography there are rules that need to be followed, in order to tell the truth if one needs they can break some rules, and that writing an autobiography can also be considered a healing process.

            Another reason that Harrison is considered to be an unreliable or untrustworthy narrator is because critics believe that she uses ideas from fairytales in order to tell her story. It is true that Harrison makes allusions to fairytales, but this does not necessarily mean that her story is a fictional tale, it can also mean that it is the manner in which she sees her own life. Using the combination of the fairy tale and personal narrative Harrison does an amazing job to show her life of sexual abuse. Fairy tales may show a daughter spending her adolescence in servicing the evil step mother like in Cinderella, where Cinderella does all the chores for the step mother and step sisters as though she is their servant. The princess may be waiting for a prince in a glass coffin or in an isolated space like in Rapunzel when she is locked in a tower and needs to wait for the prince to climb up via her hair and save her, but Harrison spends this time of adolescence in the hands of her father. Incest is not put into western fairytales and thus although there are fairy tale like aspects in this autobiography, which may make it seem to be fiction there is the truth about the promiscuous relationship she and her father have that is not shown in any western fairytale the we are familiar with. The fairytale aspects are can also be said to be a part of her childhood which she never truly experience because not being acknowledged by her parents. Another reason the fairytale aspects are in the autobiography is that psychologically Harrison does not grow up and nor does she go through the regular stages of sexual development because she does not have her father in her childhood, now that he comes back to her life this is her time to grow up and go through what girls feel when they are younger. She is developing her sexuality later in life. (Hodger-blackburn)

            Harrison says “Is there a way to tell a stranger that once upon a time I fell from grace, I was lost so deeply in a dark wood that I’m afraid I’ll never be safe again?” “Once upon a time” is the manner in which most fairy tales begin and the end with “Happily ever after,” in Harrison’s memoir she does say this line but in the end of her memoir not at the beginning and “Happily ever after is nowhere to be found. Being “lost” and in the “woods” is also an allusion and sounds fairy tale like, but because of the place in the memoir that we read it at, it seems to be her true state of mind. She is lost and does not know where to go, her head are the dark woods, the unknown paths that she needs to go down and her future are all the dark woods. This is the manner in which she is looking at her life in.

            Sleep is another very interest symbol in the memoir, it is the mask that her mother hides behind and one that she later also learns to hide behind. Initially it the mother that is continuously sleeping and Harrison trying to awaken her in order for her to notice that she has a daughter and give her some attention but, this does not happen. Once her mother does arise she is not a calm grateful sleeping beauty but, an enraged one. “Smoke arrises from her mouth, her hand. It slowly, dizzily, swaying back  and forth like a snake charmer’s flute. Her eyes, when they turn at last towards me, are like two empty mirrors. I can’t find myself in them” (9). She does not see herself in her mother’s eyes, does not see acceptance, love, nor acknowledgement. Sleep reminds me of sleeping beauty, nothing is to wake her up except for her “true love” whereas when Harrison sleeps it is to get away from the violence and abuse of her father, it is to coop with what is happening to her. She is acquiring the attention of the father but, not in the same manner as that she should. Harrison also sleeps when she is talking to her father on the phone (Minok,232).

            Harrison describes the first sexual event between the father and daughter as the first kiss that occurs when she goes to drop him to the airport.

“As I pull away, feeling the resistance of his hand behind my head, how tightly he holds me to him, the kiss changes. It is no longer a chaste, closed-lipped kiss. My Father pushes his tongue deep into my mouth: wet, insistent, exploring, then withdrawn…I am frightened by the kiss. I know it is wrong, and its wrongness is what lets me know, too, that it is secret…I’ll think of the kiss as a kind of transforming sting, like that of a scorpion: a narcotic that spreads from my mouth to my brain…to fall asleep, to surrender volition, to become paralyzed. It’s the drug my father administers in order that he might consume me. That I might desire to be consumed. (69-70)

Harrison first describes what happens and how the kiss occurs she then she begins to tell the reader about her feelings about the wrongness of the kiss. The important part about the quotation that I have taken out of Harrisons memoir is the fact that she feels it as a sting, it is a narcotic that spread from her mouth to her brain and thus causing her brain to sleep and surrender to her father for him to do as he pleases. The kiss has a fairytale like idea of a poison, which is to destroy the princess so that evil step mother or queen has her way. Here Harrison places her father in that role of an evil rapacious monster that poisons her. He seems to give her this poison many times as it is that Harrison clearly says “Oh, I know the facts, but I can’t remember what it felt like. I’m Anaesthetized: I think I’m not ready to face it” (Contemporary Criticisms, 249). She remembers the occurrences but does not remember her feelings, she claims she is paralyzed, is this emotional paralysis. A fairytale aspect here would be that the father’s kiss is a spell that becomes cast under, this is the spell that destroys her until she is able to come out of it which happens when her mother dies.

            Although memoir’s are a very trusted source there is a question to how much one can trust of another’s memory or even of their own. Paul Eakin in Narrative Identity explains that “Consciousness is not a neutral medium in which memories can be replayed and the past repeated intact… ‘Recollection is a kind of perception… and every context will alter the nature of what is recalled’.”  Even if one thinks they truly remember something some part of it will be distorted depending on the context. It is definitely safe to assume that every autobiography may have some small detailed misplaced but nothing that would be large enough to misplace the whole of the autobiography. If critics say Harrison may have had the ability to ignore her father’s advances then she may really have but, she like any child was starving for the love of her parents and this was the only way she felt she could get it. Harrison is reliable because she tells her story in the manner that she remembers it. Eakin also puts a quotation from Strawson saying “the more you recall, retell, narrate yourself, the further you risk from moving away from …the truth of your being.” Here Eakin clearly puts forth the idea to take all of the details given with a grain of salt. So that one may say she can be somewhat unreliable with minor matters but, definitely not with the whole story. She is a trustworthy narrator because she is writing about herself through breaking rules, in order to tell the full truth.

            As the story goes on  Harrison’s grandfather dies, which is cause the first realizations of what Harrison has been doing, in herself. She begins to show a concern for education , which means she will possibly go back and finish her college education,   Marshall explains this occurrence to be the beginning of an awakening from the poisonous kiss. She also says “it is her mother’s death that finally breaks her father’s spell.” When Harrison’s mother passes away Harrison can freely touch her body without any boundaries and restrictions this when her father spell finally breaks on her.

Harrison’s long hair is also a fairytale object which is incorporated into her autobiography. It represented her sense of self (Hodgeson-Blackburn,147). “Having my hair cut off and then giving it to my mother is a complex act, one with layers of meaning. There are things I need to tell my mother before she dies, before she leaves me; and I speak, as  I always have, with the body she gave me, the one she carried inside her,” (195). Harrison cutting off her hair for her mother before she died was a way to let her mother know that the incestuous relationship that she and her father had had ended. Harrison confesses that she used her hair as a safeguard from her femaleness. After Harrison cuts off her hair she feels the ability to control her own life and her future. Initially Harrison uses her hair to hide her body from people once she had started menstruating; her hair is not only a symbol of sexuality but also one of innocence.

A critic, Brooke Allen, claims that the central figure in the novel is Kathryn’s mother, who she as a child loves obsessively but, her mother does not pay attention to her until the very end of her own life. Harrison’s mother gets married, has a child, and then cannot take care of Harrison and so her grandmother steps in and raises the child. Allen makes the claim that the autobiography is dedicated to the mother not with love but, to show her rage towards her mother. This in many ways does not seem to make sense because the last dream that Harrison depicts for the reader is that she and the mother meet and express their love for one another. Another reason that Harrison cannot hate her mother is because she cuts off her hair for her mother in order to show her that what was sexually wrong with the situation is not there anymore. She shows the mother that the hair which was her sense of self can be eliminated but, the mother daughter love, bond and relationship cannot be taken away.

Harrison writes that her mother took her to the doctor a number of time when her menstruation ceased. She also tells her readers that her mother had the doctor put in a diaphragm although Harrison was still a Virgin. Here Harrison says “The doctor deflowers me in front of my mother…I lie on the table, a paper sheet over my knees, my hands over my eyes.” According to Nicci Gerrerd because the daughter was technically deflowered by her mother, or by the doctor because of her mother, and her mother watched this occur, she lost her virginity in a way to her mother who caused the initial act. Then her father was the first “person” she had sex with and thus she lost her virginity to no other then her parents. This is first the symbolic rape by her mother and then the literal action that her father commits is the actual rape done.

According to Hodgson-Blackburn, Harrison has written this novel to come to terms with the loss of her father, it is the mourning process during which a daughter re-evaluates her role in the family. Harrison’s family represents an unstable, chaotic, torn family unit in which in order to attain love which she finally sees in her father’s eyes she is paralyzed by him. Harrison shows that she wanted to acquire her own self-identity and in the process of doing so there was a necessity to go through the steps that other women had gone through during girlhood. Her father only begins to show interest in the wife and daughter he leaves behind when she is sexually developed. These details show the things that were going on in Harrison’s life and sort of give her thinking some logic to why she did and acted the way she did. The writing of this autobiography is purely to deal with the injury she herself had to face.

Many Critics make the claim that Harrison is an unreliable and untrustworthy writer because she publishes her autobiography for the wrong reasons, which according to some such as Wolcott are only to acquire fame and money. Other critics claim that she has exposed her two young children. Harrison shows herself as the victim of an incestuous relationship with her father, but critics make the claim that she was twenty at the time the relationship started and lasted four years. Harrison should have been able to take a step and get out of the situation, this is true, but one has to take into consideration the background information Harrison gives the reader. Such as, the fact that she was always trying to acquire her mother’s attention and love, and she had never had her father’s love, she was abandoned by both parents and when she saw love in her father’s eyes she drove straight for the attention not truly knowing what it entailed. She never mentions any names and does not expose the whereabouts of her father, if she was trying a get rich quick scheme she would have more than likely given names, or whereabouts of certain people.

Harrison is criticized for writing such a memory and occurrences in her life in an autobiography because they deny private and public spheres (Gilmore). Harrison has a different way of writing her memoir in the sense that she does not show herself as a victim nor as a villain but instead as “a subject coming to terms more with the mystery of her agency than her injury” (Gilmore, 719). She is basically coming to an understanding about what happened and how she herself reacted in the situation and not to her injury and her feelings about the occurrences, one of the most important points that proves Harrison is a trustworthy writer.

Alther in Blaming the Victim claims that “the difference between memoir and fiction lies primarily in the contract with the reader.”  This is to say that a reader is the one who has the ability to judge whether a writer is telling the truth or fiction and similarly Gilmore says “Harrison [has] truths to tell, but who we are and where we are when we listen depends also on which jurisdictions have mapped us” (716). Only the reader can truly decide whether the writer, in this Kathryn Harrison, is telling the truth, and whether she is unreliable or reliable. In my personal reading of Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss I felt she was a truly honest and trustworthy person in what she has written for the reader, although she has used fairytale symbols such as hair, poison, kiss, and breaking of a spell and psychologist have proven that memory is distorted based on the context that one tries to recollect a memory in. Gilmore  says “trauma injuries not only the person but also the person’s sense of time, splitting it into before and after, hypostatizing the traumatic contents of the past in flashbacks, and disordering memory”(712). This quotation makes the claim that Harrison has gone through a traumatic event because of which she continuously seems to shift the reader back and forth through time, her own personal trauma has not yet hit her and thus even the reader seems to have a delayed effect. One cannot make the claim that Harrison is unreliable or untrustworthy because she breaks rules nor because she uses fairytale fictional aspects in her telling of her autobiography, but one can definitely make the claim that Harrison is a trustworthy and reliable narrator because of all the information she gives the reader, because of the rules she breaks and because of the truthful manner in which she does not seem to hide anything from the reader.

















Works Cited:

Allen, Brooke. “Devouring Love”. New Criterion. Volume 15. No.9. May 1997. 64-69

Alther, Lisa. “Blaming the Victim.” The Women’s Review of Books. July 1997. 33-34. Print

Eakin, Paul John. “Breaking Rules: The Consequences of Self Narration.” Biography. Winter

2001. 113-127. Print.

Eakin, Paul John. “Narrative Identity and Narrative Imperialism: A Response to Galen Strawson
          and James Phelan”. Narrative. Volume 14, No. 2. May 2006. 180-187. Print.

Gerrard, Nicci. “Father, We Have Sinned”. Observer. April 1997. 17

Gilmore, Leigh. Jurisdictions: I, Rigoberta Menchu, The Kiss, and the Scandalous Self-
           Representation in the Age of Memoir and Truama. Signs Volume 28, No.2. Winter 2003.     
           695-718. Print.

Harrison, Kathryn. The Kiss-A memoir. New York. First Bard Printing, 1998. Print.

Hodgson-Blackburn, Jacqueline. “Kiss and Tell: ‘The Writing Cure’ in Kathryn Harrison’s The

Kiss.” The Feminist Review. Summer 2001. Print.

Kaveney, Roz. “Fate in Frocks”. New Statesman and Society. Volume 8. Number 363. July 1995.

Marshall, Elizabeth. “The Daughter’s Disenchantment: Incest as Pedagogy in Fairy Tales and

Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss”. College English Volume 66,Number 4. March 2004. 403-

424. Print

Minok, Dan. “The Kiss, and: Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You”. Fourth
        Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. Volume 2, No.1. Spring 2000. 231-232.

Parker, David. “Counter-Transference in Reading Autobiography: The Case of Kathryn
           Harrison’s The Kiss”. Biography. Volume 25, No. 3, Summer 2002. 493-504.

December 21st, 2010 at 3:19 am | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink

Throughout this semester we have gone through an number of autobiographies and while reading on them I have discovered more that I am looking forward to reading.  We read a number of different types of autobiographies, first my favorite ones which were Alice Sebold’s Lucky and Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss. Sebold showed that she was truly lucky, what I liked most about the text was the manner in which she seemed to be able to detail and describe what had happened and how she felt. Harrison did an absolutly amazing job in the was she seemed to just take a picture and describe what happened, for example the fact that she had wanted to attain the attention of her mother and the manner in which her mother reacted. These were both sexual trauma autobiographies and were very sad.

                I have began to appreciate autobiographies more then I did before, and have learned a lot, such as the fact that there are various forms of writing an autobiography. For example we read Ann Sexton and Lyn Hejinians autobiographies in class, they were written in a poetic form. There were pieces from both of their lives that the reader understood and learned as well as much of their lives seemed to be a blank space, in other words nothing was spelled out. Hejinian and Sexton did not tell it in a form of consecutive narration but more scattered and poetic.

                Prior to taking this class I did not realize that autobiographies could have pictures in it, or even comics. This is one of the reasons I really appreciated Bechal’s work in her autobiography, everything was depicted with as little writing as possible, the reader got a better idea of how she remembered the scene and the expressions on people faces.  Another really surprising thing to me was the fact that a personal essay was included under the genre of autobiographies. This is probably because I had always expected autobiographies to be long but, through this class I learned they can even be as short as a few pages to as long as the author wants them to be, but as long as they speak about a particular topic or experience it is considered an autobiography.

                It was interesting for me to learn that in order for something to be considered an autobiography there were rules and regulations the writer needed to follow. These ideas and criticisms especially came up in the case of Lucky and The Kiss.

December 8th, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

“A crucial difference between traditional biographies—including film and television—and people’s lives represented in the online “space” is that online identities are easily manipulated at any time by the individual subject or by others. There is no doubt that even this single feature, the ability to “manage” online content at will, is chang­ing the way we see ourselves and each other.”(76)

In looking at autobiographies and biography this is a very important point that we sometimes miss, the fact that there is a progressive change from what was considered autobiographical to what is now considered autobiographical or should be considered autobiographical. Autobiographies are supposed to be truthful and here like in books the author or the holder of the facebook account for example has the ability to show and hide what he /she pleases. The owner of the facebook can allow for some people to view some things while clearly preventing others from veiwing other things. As Arthur is saying a person has the ability to manage the content that is displayed and thru this may only being showing parts of him or herself that they want to reveal and hide the rest. Digitial biography according to Arthur gives a person theability to write down and blog whatever they like at their own discretion. Sometimes certain people make whole family albums on facebook and other such accounts in which they are also subjectifying the members of the family based on their clothing and expressions for the viewer for example. Arthur is basically saying that although through digital biography one has the ability to show the self, personality, identity, and experience, they “manage” what they want people to see.

December 8th, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

In the excerpt from Julia Watson’s “Autographic Disclosures and Genealogies of Desire in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home,” she makes the claim that  Fun Homeis auto-graphic and is thus difficult to accept it as autobiography. This is because auto graphics such as Bechdels contains cartoons. She says “disjunctions between the cartoon panel and the verbal text” making the claim that sometimes the cartoons do not portray the same things that words portray and even saying that words are better then cartoons.

I agree with Watson when she says that text is sometime better then graphics in order for one to understand and assume what they feel is right and ment by the author, while at the same time I also think that in some matter pictures are better then words. There is a saying “a picture is a thousand words” or something along those lines, thus somethings that words express can only be seen through pictures altough I believe the room left by text for ones own interpretation is a lot better.

November 10th, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink

The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison is an amazingly well thought out and written memoir. There are many interesting aspects of this memoir, the very first is the scattered manner in which Harrison writes; by this I mean the fact that Harrison jumps from one time during her life to another. Harrison  opens her memoir with the lines “We meet at airports. We meet in cities where we’ve never been before. We meet where no one will recognize us'” (3). This is the first paragraph of the memoir, initially when reading this paragraph one assumes that this is a couple who secretly meets, probably an extra marital affair, but later on one learns this affair is one of incest, a father and daughter. Harrison describes when she first goes to pick up her fathr from the airport; “My father looks at me, then, as no one has ever looked at me before. His hot eyes consume me- eyes that I will discover are always this bloodshot” (51).  This is the very first time that she notices the manner in which her father looks at her. During this visit the father gives both mother and daughter the same amount of attention which is different for the next visit during which all of his attention is fully on his daughter.

The fathers advances begin at the airport when Harrison goes to drop him off and he kisses her in an inappropriate manner, they continue to call each other and spends hours on the phone with one another. Her father continuously feels the need to control her life and she gives into him until her grandfather and mother get sick. She decides to go to Graduate school and move away from her father and when she does move away she has to leave everything behind and once again is left without a father.

Harrison is a victim of sexual abuse by her father. This is clearly because throughout her life she did not have a father figure and never felt loved by her mother. In order to get attention and love she became close to her father not realizing what would later happen nor what she would truly have to go through. Her grandparents had kicked her father out and had raised her. Harrison also got caught up into these problems because she feels that her grandparents were the cause of not . She did not know how else to keep a relationship with her father. She wanted him in her life so bad that she would do anything to keep him, until she finally realized how wrong he was to remain in her life.

November 3rd, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

One of the main themes seen throughout Anne  Sexton’s poem selection To Bedlam and Part Way Back  is “death.”  “The Double Image” and  “Elizabeth Gone” are two poems in which  Sexton mentions death clearly.

“Elizabeth Gone”, is an interesting poem because at first Sexton seems to miss Elizabeth and speak to her as though she has just died. Her lying there before Sexton, before cremation is mentioned this is with in the first two stanzas of the poem, and then in the third and fourth stanza Sexton says “When something cried, let me go let me go./ So I threw out your last bony shells.” These lines now tell the reader that Sexton is not speaking only of Elizabeth dying and leaving her but, also letting go and losing what was left of her. In some cases these can be memories, relationships, but here it is the ashes which symbolize the physical being of Elizabeth which is now “gone.”

In “The Double Image” Sexton again brings up the subject of death. Here at first she brings up the fact that her mother did not appreciate her attempts at suicide and could not forget that Sexton had attempted to do it, she also mentions that she had her portrait made and lived like an angry guest with her mother. She also speaks about the birth of “you” which here is her daughter and while speaking to her daughter she says “You call me mother and I remember my mother again,/somewhere in greater Boston dying.”  Sexton brings together the birth of her daughter to her attempts at suicide and she brings together the beginning of a relationship with her daughter to the dying relationship that she shares with her mother. Sexton’s daughter had been born which had caused her attempts to commit suicide which in turn brought her further away from her own mother, while at the same token a relationship between her and her daughter has been born while that with her mother has died.

Sexton seems to say that life and death go hand in hand. While one takes birth it is necessary for the other to die. She can also be in mourning for all the loved ones she has lost, and may also be somehow incorporating her own suicidal attempts making the claim that in order for her daughter to live she had needed to die possibly.

October 26th, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink

Zhara Jaffrey

October 24, 2010

English 391W

Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography

            For this research paper I am interested in writing about Lucky by Alice Sebold, Telling: A Memoir of Rape & Recovery by Patricia Weaver Francisco, and I am a Central Park Jogger: A story of Hope and Possibility by Tisha Meili. I am interested in the manner in which certain writers who have experienced certain traumas express their experiences. I am also interested in what psychological research offers in terms of these traumas, in this case rape.  I would like to understand what is included in writing a memoir, how it is edited, and why some writers include dramatic and full detail while others feel a necessity to omit certain aspects of their experience. The significance of the details, events and their meanings to the author and readers.

The particular aspects of how female writers who are victims of rape write about their feelings and emotions. How the victims try to adjust to their environment. What they express through their writings. Why certain things are taken out and others included, exactly how much of the traumatic experience a person remembers and how much of it do they piece together. I will go about do this research using parts of real case study of the authors of these memoirs, using real psychological studies and interviews with information that the authors themselves gave. An example of some of the things I would like to understand is when Sebold tells her readers of her father’s comment that it was not rape because the culprit was not holding a knife during the time of the act, his lack of understanding. Another example is of when the people in Sebold’s home town refer to the rape as an accident, why these details are included what is so significant about them.

Annotated Bibliography


The South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault. “Psychological adjustment to rape”. Sep.25,2009. Oct.

2010.  <www.secasa.com.au/index.php/workers/25/30  >

            This article is one on psychological effects on the female victims of rape. It explains that because of the amount of stress and shocks the victim experiences they do not feel like they are living a reality. All of the processes that are attached to rape cause the victims to feel as if everything occurring is unreal. It explains that the amount of trauma the victim can be unrecognized and even ignored at times by the family and friends, to whom the victim looks at for support. The article explains that women tend to change in the manner in which they explain emotions and they can suddenly have an emotional shift.

Eckhoff, Sally. “Alice Sebold”.  October,6, 2003. Oct 2010. <www.arlindo-correia.com/100603.html>

            This is an interview in which Sebold explains how she felt through the writing. She tells about her encounters, explains how other saw her, she also explains the shock that she was in. The article also explains her previous book “The Lovely Bones” about which Sebold describes that the afterlife in heaven would.

Patterson, Christina.  “Alice Sebold: Rape and Redemption.” June 6, 2003. Oct. 2010.  

<www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/alice-sebold-rape-and-redemption-539849.html >

            This article discusses the effects of rape on Alice Sebolds life. It not only gives the effects of the rape on Sebold’s life but, also gives the opinion of Patterson based on her reading of the book, it would allow for me to incorporate the two ideas together. It would also cause me to think and compare the two ways of thinking and decide on a final impact of the story. It also gives insight on what Sebold was thinking as she wrote her memoir. It speaks about the fact that Sebold wanted to become known as a poet but was instead known for her memoir.

Smith, Chris. “Central Park Revisited.” New York: News and Features. October, 21, 2002. October 2010.



            This article from the New York Magazine gives information about the actual culprit of the act of rape on Meili.  It gives information about the fact that the five people who were arrested and jailed initially were not the true culprits of the act, their semen also never matched what was found at the crime site. In 2002, the true offender and culprit himself came forward and admitted to raping Meili and expecting her to die, as did the doctors who treated her.  This new discovery sheds light on part of the unknown that occurred because Meili does not recalled what had happened. It gives us at least this much knowledge that the culprit was alone in what he did and that his is in jail.


Wedro, Benjamin C. “Coma Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment.” December,

2009. October 2010. <medicinenet.com/coma/article.htm>

            Medicine net gives information about Coma. This information can be used to determine how much damage was done to Meili and what could have happened. It can also be used to judge how strong of a will Meili has that she succeeded in coming out alive. The amount of will she had to live. This describes the causes, treatment, symptoms, and other information that one can use to judge how brutally the attack on Meili was and the manner in which she came through and survived it. It is a medical site that may be able to further help with why certain information is put in while other information is omitted in Tisha Meili’s memoir.

October 24th, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Zhara Jaffrey

October 20, 2010


I would like to explore how different women write rape and sexual abuse memoirs.  What some writers decide to include while others feel a necessity to omit. I would also include how some women give more detail to the unfortunate occurrence while other emphasize how they feelings and emotions. I am also interested in the circumstances they undergo and the reactions they receive from their family and community. In Lucky by Alice Sebold, she tells the reader that her father at one point did not understand how the situation was a rape when there was no weapon during the act. The community spoke of it as an accident and not a rape. Sebold’s writing shows that no one wanted to fully acknowledge that she had been raped and she felt there was a different manner in which people looked at her in as opposed to others. I would like to read and discover through research about whether some of the other women writers felt the same, did they have acceptance, closer, and what they under went in comparison to Sebold.

I am also looking forward to look into psychological research about information in rape cases. For example what rape victims tend not to speak about, how much of what happens do they express and how much do they hide. Do victims of rape tend to live a near normal life or is the rape something they have night mares about for years. I would also try to research and find articles about the authors and get information about the events in that manner.

3 texts are

Lucky by Alice Sebold

Telling: A Memoir of Rape & Recovery by Patricia Weaver Francisco

I am a Central Park Jogger: A story of Hope and Possibility By Tisha Meili


School Library Journal 49 no11 173 N 2003

Book Digest Plus-Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery (Book) Book reviews

Wilsons Web-http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/results/external_link_maincontentframe.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.43

October 20th, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (5) | Permalink