Dancing at the Shame Prom:
Sharing the Stories that Kept Us Small
While I am not a religious person, I would definitely stand in the spiritual line. I have no doubt that there is a god, a creator, a purveyor of the miraculous, and I have undeniably heard the call to serve. In 1997, there was no refuting the countless messages that a “divinely inspired” project devoted to uniting women was my assignment...like it or not. I had the immense privilege of being called into this “service” with my dearest friend, and while I could understand the value of her contribution and stewardship, I struggled with my own feelings of inadequacy. Every time I tried to squirm my way out though, something extraordinary occurred that nudged me forward.
The project, Letters to Our Daughters, seemed to be an opportunity to connect women to one another based on commonalities. While differences tend to separate us, there are common threads that connect us...and those were ours to find. Have you ever noticed that when women speak about their children, there is an instant familiarity? Regardless of circumstances mothers walk a similar path. What matters to one, generally matters to most. We all want better lives for our children; futures filled with hope, security, love and honor. Letters to Our Daughters is a collection of 44 heartfelt and authentic letters from mothers around the country and around the world. While each one speaks of a unique situation, the underlying messages are that of unconditional love and devotion.
Since the publication of LTOD, I have been witness to the miracle that comes with being willing to speak the truth. The courageous women who contributed letters not only healed, encouraged and loved their own daughters, but their messages have resonated with countless women. The result being that those common threads have strengthened others, allowing their own personal truths to be told.
I know the value of telling the truth. I have seen first hand the remarkable results of someone willing to be vulnerable, and I have been inspired by the stories others so courageously share. But since my own daughter was diagnosed with anorexia 6 years ago, I have not been able to speak about it. Initially it was out of respect for her process. She needed to talk about it when she was ready and with whom she trusted. While that left our family rather isolated, I welcomed it. I felt such shame...not about my daughter or her eating disorder, but about my own inadequacy as her mother.
One of the most common of common threads that connect mothers is the hope and prayer that they never fail their children. Daunting task! Impossible expectations! Failure is inevitable. And yet, we fool ourselves into thinking that if we love them with every cell in our bodies, attend to their every need, want and desire, they will get through life with less suffering than we did. Did I mention Impossible Expectations! So when our children do suffer and often suffer hopelessly, guilt and disappointment is our burden to bear. I thought that I could LOVE my daughter out of her excruciating pain. When that didn’t work, I had to come to grips with my own shortcomings, and sense of limitation.
I was finally able to speak about our collective suffering because my daughter grew stronger by the day. She was the one who faced, head on, the truth, the plight associated with an eating disorder, the hard work required to move ahead. She never placed blame...not on me, not on herself. She accepted the mental illness for what it was, not what I constantly imagined it to be...my fault.
As miracles would have it, the authors of Dancing at the Shame Prom approached us with the guarded and respectful invitation to tell our story. So many in our culture suffer silently with eating disorders...often unsupported and more often judged harshly by those who simply do not understand. My daughter considered the request and felt the time was right. We talked about what each of us might say, but we agreed not to share our pieces until we were both finished. When we read them to one another it was indeed divine. They were two halves of the entire experience. They were woven together with common threads that created a story of truth, unconditional love, and hope...
We both know that writing about our experiences has been a significant part of our most cherished outcome; wellness and self acceptance. Shame thrives when kept in the dark...but turn on the light? The truth will set you free!
Thank you Kristine for visiting the blog today. I look forward to reading Shame Prom this month and will post my review on January 2, 2013. A double-dip from Shame Prom within a few weeks time.
Whether it was the one-night stand you always regretted, the family secret you never revealed, or the emotional abuse you endured in silence, there are some things you are so ashamed of you keep them hidden for a lifetime. Shame can hold you back from what you love, diminish your sense of self-worth, and prevent you from fully being who you are. But what happens when you finally relent and share that secret burden?
In Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small (September 18, 2012, Seal Press), editors Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter encourage readers to confront this powerful emotion head-on. They gather together 27 gifted and talented writers who reveal, explore, and embrace the root of their shame, in the process demonstrating the strength that comes from defeating their demons.
In a brilliant display of bravery, these writers share their darkest fears, offer up their most vulnerable moments, and reveal jaw-dropping secrets. Journalist Nina Burleigh discusses the shame she felt at being coerced into posing for “artsy” naked photos in “Year of the Rat.” In “Playing Dead Under the Family Tree,” Monica Holloway shows how her husband’s infidelity initially isolates her with the shame of being alone. Meredith Resnick’s story “Original Bra” weaves together her complicated feelings about body image with her quest to buy her first bra. From spilling long forbidden secrets to revealing their innermost faults, these authors openly share poignant and life-changing moments of humiliation, embarrassment, and despair, along with the wisdom they learned from letting go of the shame that’s been weighing them down.
Freeing, provocative, and audacious, Dancing at the Shame Prom is about divulging the secrets that have made you feel small so that you can stand up straight, let the shame go, and finally—decisively—move on with your life.
Meet the Authors
Amy Ferris is an author, editor, screenwriter and playwright. Her memoir, Marrying George Clooney, Confessions From a Midlife Crisis (Seal Press) is off-broadway bound, CAP21 Theater Company, March 2012. She has contributed to numerous anthologies, and has written everything from Young Adult novels to movies and films. She co-wrote Funny Valentines (Julie Dash, Director), and Mr. Wonderful (Anthony Minghella, Director). Funny Valentines was nominated for a Best Screenplay award, and numerous BET awards. She co-created and co-edited the first ever "all women's issue" of Living Buddhism magazine. She serves on the Executive Board of Directors at The Pages & Places Literary Festival, Peters Valley Arts, Education and Craft Center, and is on the Advisory Board of The Women's Media Center. She is on faculty at The San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference. She is a visiting teacher at the UCLA Writers Workshop (extension). She contributes regularly to iPinion Syndicate. Her number one goal, desire, dream: Is that all women awaken to their greatness. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ken.
You can find her blogging in the middle of the night at:
To purchase this book click on any of the above photographs or copy and paste the below link.
Hollye Dexter recently completed a second memoir, What Doesn’t Kill You. Her essays have been published in anthologies (Chicken Soup For the Soul, Answered Prayers, and Character Consciousness) and in many online publications. She writes regularly for iPinion Syndicate and AOL Patch News. A singer/songwriter with four albums out, she also founded the award-winning nonprofit Art and Soul, running workshops for teenagers in the foster care system. In 2007 she received the Agape Spirit award from Dr. Michael Beckwith (from The Secret) for her work with at-risk youth. Together, with Amy Ferris she teaches writing workshops, helping others to find their authentic voices. She is on staff for the San Miguel Writer’s Conference and a visiting author at UCLA extension. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children, where she hikes, plays music and blogs about living an authentic life at www.hollyedexter.blogspot.com