Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the stories that kept us small, edited by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter is an anthology like no other I've read before. Over twenty women share their shame, most stemmed as a result of a childhood trauma. I thought about using the word "incident" or "happening" yet neither portrayed the pain, anguish, and life-altering effect forced upon these women -- so to honor their courage to share hidden shames, I will name it...trauma.
I've prayed about this review, read stories with tears streaming down my cheeks, and then thought of how I could give this book the justice it deserves in a blog review. Ladies, if you have ever felt ashamed, underappreciated, overlooked, confused, hidden within yourself, or alone -- then there is a story within the covers of this book to reach into the depths of your heart. If you've struggled with the look of your body, whether it be too big or too small -- your story is in here too. Since there is so much truth and hope shared from one woman's heart to another, I will simply encourage you to visit Amazon.com and take advantage of their sneak peak. You can click on the book cover above for a direct link if this is easier.
I would like to share one story with you, the story of Hollye. Hollye's shame was because of who she was. Conceived by two teens, young and in love. Born against her parent's wishes, to the point her father tried to force miscarriage on his own daughter. This same father then disappears from her life with handcuffs binding him. Her mother sent to a remote town so no one would know "...this shameful secret..."
Hollye looks back, "It's not as though anyone had directly told me I was shameful secret. They didn't need to. Children absorb human emotion like sponges. Shame was imprinted on my soul before I was old enough to know what it was, and I would spend the rest of my life apologizing for it." As an educator, my heart went to students of past and those yet to cross the threshold. The Hollye's teachers and family, she appeared fine, if not perfect, yet on the inside -- this precious child was so full of shame. A shame that pushed her to attempt suicide as a teen.
As an adult Hollye shares, "...Hollye Holmes excelled in school. Hollye Holmes married the man of her dreams and had beautiful children and built a successful business. But Hollye Holmes was a gractured girl who could never sustain anything good. Anxiety attacks would chase her all her life, as Hollye Fisher was screaming to come out...And so I straddled the line between the ambassador self I presented to the world, and the self I pushed down to the inner dark places in my soul...Living in fear gave shame the reins on my life."
Yet Hollye did what many don't brave to do, she faced her past, thanks to a Dr. Seuss book she read to her son one night. As she read Thidwick the Thickheaded Moose, decades of tears started to fall. In the comfort of her husband Hollye recognizes herself as Thidwick. The wall started to fall and the healing began. Without giving away the amazing journey she travels, both emotionally and physically to reach her next statement, you must know one thing -- she models great strength in facing her fears and taking the reins of her life into her own hands for the first time.
"But I am not shame. I am not my father. I am not my mother. I am no longer the young, weak girl who made poor decisions. I am not the summation of my mistake. I am not the grief or the judgment cast upon me by others. I am not the mistake my parents made, nor the tears shed by my grandparents...Inside me is a spirit, bright and thriving, that was made by the Creator of this world. I have looked into the eyes of a newborn child. I know our Creator doesn't make mistakes...I am not a mistake...I am Hollye Fisher...I am shameless."
Note to readers: Some stories contain swearing and all deal with real-life issues, written from the heart, and where each woman was at that time with endings to keep the tissue companies in business. Kudos to each woman for your strength to share and to Amy and Hollye for your editorial genius.
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.
Lisa M Buske
P.O. Box 323