Riding Fury Home: A Memoir
Seal Press, Berkeley, 2012
It seems unusual to know someone professionally and then read about their life in great detail. Thanks to Chana Wilson's memoir, Riding Fury Home, I know more about her life, resiliency and bravery. Growing up in the 50's amidst trying circumstances, Chana becomes the parentified only child to an emotionally wrought, tortured mother, Gloria, who is frequently hospitalized and undergoes electro shock treatment for chronic depression. We witness Chana's childhood milestones, mostly in the context of difficulties experienced by and with her mother.
As clinicians, Ms. Wilson's memoir serves as a vivid reminder and testament to how our clients (and ourselves) arrive at who we are today. In fascinating detail, the reader is barraged with themes of codependency, rage, extensive homophobia, shame, dysfunction, compartmentalization and privilege, all narrated in a readable, folksy story line. A mystery exists about Gloria; she is chronically depressed and suicidal, but why? We find out halfway through the book that she is a closeted lesbian. We witness first hand the professional atrocities implemented in light of conformity and rigid role expectations of that era.
In addition to detailing the pains of a difficult childhood, the story moves through coming of age in the 60's and 70's with the author's sense of political and social justice, commitment and evolving community. There is awkwardness in coming out, sexual experiences, and challenges in dating, as well as the joy of profound connection and sisterhood that underlies her growing experiences. Chana and Gloria grow closer and bond around the Women's Movement, and later, with their mutual lesbian identity. After coming out, Gloria has a full, exuberant and affirming life, in stark contrast to the closeted, anxiety and depression prone past. At times funny and sad, painful and affirming, this is a story of survival and community, and what some women go through to be who they truly are.
Kudos to Chana Wilson for her soul searching memoir. I applaud her for valuing the notion, "you are only as sick as your secrets". We see the author proud and empowered by sharing so intimately, who she is and her memorable journey. Is there a greater compliment than for the reader to be moved, touched and educated about the profound struggles of life and love?
*This review was originally written for an upcoming issue of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Newsletter.