Sartain: First spring ABR speaker tells her story of survival

Jeffrey A. Sartain

Lacy M. Johnson, author of the memoir "The Other Side," is the first speaker in the spring 2018 University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Reading Series. She joins us Thursday at noon in the UHV University West Alcorn Auditorium for a reading that is free and open to the public.

"The Other Side" depicts Johnson's horrifying tale of a passionate relationship that turns to abduction, rape and attempted murder. She narrowly survived her experience, and her attacker is still at large, avoiding prosecution under his dual citizenship in Venezuela. Johnson's experience and her long process of healing are discussed in her memoir and serve as powerful examples for others who have survived violence and trauma.

With her critically acclaimed and award-winning memoir, Johnson joins a contemporary surge of great writers dealing with personal trauma through memoirs, including former UHV/ABR Reading Series speaker Nick Flynn. Flynn's memoir, "Another B------t Night in Suck City," had a significant influence on the form and style of Johnson's book. Johnson's writing artfully blends her precise, direct literary style with nonfiction subject matter, supplementing her story with sprawling footnotes that document the extent of her research.

Bold, courageous artists like Johnson attempt to portray humanity by transforming the agony experienced into art. Through that art they often heal themselves, but more often, they give others a model to heal themselves. However, readers and listeners should prepare themselves for this story. Johnson's memoir may be a brutal read to some. It reflects the brutality of her experience. There is no closure or justice to be found in this book. It is not a happy tale. But there is survival, perseverance and profound healing as Johnson learns to reclaim herself and her past.

At the reading, UHV students and Victoria community members will have a chance to show their support and hear Johnson's story. The Victoria community has experienced a long history fighting domestic violence. Mid-Coast Family Services is one of the local nonprofit organizations that demonstrate the community's social commitment in the effort to eliminate domestic violence.

Among a suite of social services offered to the Victoria community, Mid-Coast has several specific programs to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The organization runs the Women's Crisis Center, which provides a hotline for survivors of domestic or sexual abuse, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at 361-573-4357 or 1-800-870-0368. An appointment is not necessary for immediate face-to-face crisis intervention and advocacy services during business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the main office at 111 S. Liberty St.

Mid-Coast also administers a number of other services for survivors of sexual or domestic abuse, including crisis intervention, public education, advocacy, accompaniments, support groups and an emergency shelter. For more information, visit midcoastfamily.org.

Jeffrey A. Sartain is the managing editor of the American Book Review and an assistant professor of English at UHV.

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