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The Wrong Kind of Testimony


She created me on car rides. Trips to school and church, rides to work, The passenger seat of my mother’s station wagon, the passenger staring out the window, mute, watching the breezy blur of houses and trees rushing by, her voice steady. I know these stories already, told until you can’t remember the first telling.

Here, in the car, her voice is a repetition of trauma, her tellings ironing out her own testimony. All her stories are God’s stories, miracles and redemption, restoration and hope. This is how I learned who my mother was, who my father was, who my brother was, a silent witness, the mute passenger. She gave me the stories that served as my memories, the history that became what I was, the words that I used to live up to. If, in her stories, I disappeared down a hallway, then I ceased to exist. If a memory surfaced that would push back against what she had told me about myself, then there was something wrong with the memory.

I had never been abused. No one had ever hurt me. Nothing was wrong with me. My mother’s stories wouldn’t allow for it.

This is a memoir not just about abuse, but about growing up on fractured and conflicting stories: stories about yourself, your family, the world--and finding your voice as the narratives break around you. It's a rebellion against the demand that survivors lives be easy and inspiring tales of forgiveness and healing--a rebellion against the expectation that survivors lives serve any kind of story at all. This is a reclamation of "bad survivor," a wrong testimony that defies the narratives I was told were mine. It is not a memoir of healing and forgiveness, but of the right to be as fully human as everyone else--traumatized, alive, carrying the scars and wounds of what was done into a future I grasp onto solely for myself.