I’ve been wanting to write something along these lines for awhile now. I decided that the month I’ve devoted to short fiction would be a good time, since I tend to explore dark topic in short fiction.
I just finished writing a story about the Holocaust. I’m actually surprised that it took me so long to do it, because I have a fascination with the subject.
Yeah, it’s kind of a weird thing to be interested in. But I’ve read some really amazing stories based on it. Number The Stars, The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, Maus. Jacob The Liar is one of my favorite movies, and not just because Liev Schriber is in it.
Honestly, I don’t know why I do this. I read this stuff, and I cry. I read stories about wars, and abuse, and things that make me cry in general. Why do I do this?! Why do I read it, why do I write it? Why is there so much fiction about it?
For one, it’s therapeutic. Sometimes an experience can be so big, that it’s impossible to wrap your brain around it. I’m sure that you’ve had experiences like that. Writing about it, either in non fiction or fiction, can be a way to start to understand what happened to you. To see the experience objectively, as a part of your history.
Your story might also help others. Full disclosure, my ex was abusive, both physically and emotionally. I didn’t believe it for a long time, until I started reading accounts of other people who had experienced abuse. It’s so subtle, the way it starts. The flashes of anger aren’t anything compared to the every day controlling behaviors and the slow, subtle things that break your sense of self worth down. I had convinced myself that I was just overreacting. He wouldn’t yell at me if I didn’t deserve it. Maybe if I wasn’t such a screw up, he wouldn’t have to do this. To put this in a little perspective, I now have a good day job that supports my whole family, a gorgeous husband who takes great pictures and cooks like a mofo, two brilliant children. I’ve published two books, written four, and make the best tuna casserole you have ever tasted. He’s unemployed, living off of his new girlfriend’s unemployment. So, perspective.
Huge historical events are important for future generations to understand. Like, for instance, 9/11. I was thirteen when 9/11 happened. Someday, I’m going to write about it, because I don’t think kids realize how different the world was before that day. I don’t know that we’re any safer these days, but I do know that we’re a lot more afraid. I want to write about it because I watched the world change.
Of course, it will be written about from an historical point of view. But that won’t explain how it felt to live through that day. Similarly, we can read the history of the Holocaust, but it’s not the same as reading Ann Frank’s Diary.
Finally, it can help us comprehend the shared horrors of the past. Like, for instance, the Holocaust. Knowing what happened, the absolute gruesome things that human beings did to other human beings, is more than my brain can handle. So I read about it, and it helps me grasp it. I write about it, and I try to understand. Being a Christian American, I’m trying to understand what it must be like to have something like that in your history. I don’t know, and I’m thankful for that ignorance. But I still want to understand.
What do you think of writing about horrors? Have you written about some dark historical moment, or just something dark from your own past?