Every story I read about Elizabeth Smart makes me admire her more. With her new book out, she has been speaking to the media quite a bit. Here's her interview with NPR, talking about how her faith helped her through the nightmare she experiences and how victims of sexual assault and rape should be treated.
Smart says that one lesson she wants people to take from her story is the importance of treating sexual assault victims with compassion. "After being raped, I felt completely worthless. I didn't even feel like I was human anymore," she says. "And it is just so important to let these survivors know that they are not any less of a person. You don't love them any less. And that to pretend like it never happened, or to pretend like rape doesn't exist or that it only happens in the wrong parts of town — you're doing that survivor a disservice."Here's the latest from the New Yorker.
Although Smart will never escape being associated with the lurid captivity she endured, she has chosen to remain a public figure and has been unusually successful at doing so on her own terms. She is a full-time advocate for the prevention of child abuse who lobbies for legislation and heads a foundation. She delivers some eighty speeches a year, and they reliably end on a note of quiet resilience. She told the teen-agers in Washington, “Never be afraid to speak out. Never be afraid to live your life. Never let your past dictate your future.”
And this article summarizes several of her appearances and statements.
Smart told me, “I can’t tell you how many women I’ve met who say, ‘When I was your age, I was raped, but it was kind of my fault, because of X, Y, or Z.’ And I just want to pull my hair out.”I just got an email from the library notifying me that my turn has finally come up and the book is waiting on hold for me there, so I'll go pick it up today.
I was really touched by the story of another admirable woman, Mother Antonia Brenner, who passed away last week. Originally from Beverly Hills, California, she chose to leave her comfortable lifestyle to volunteer among the poor in Mexico, eventually finding her calling serving those in the maximum security prison in Tijuana, La Mesa. She voluntarily chose to live in the prison with those she served, in a cell just like theirs. She convinced jail administrators to discontinue some inhumane practices. She walked into the middle of a prison riot, and the inmates stopped fighting.
After raising eight children from two marriages, both of which ended in divorce, she felt called to a prison ministry and dove in, taking her own private vows. She didn't become a sister until the age of 50. In 1997 she founded a new order, Eudist Servants of the 11th Hour, which was formally accepted by the Catholic Church in 2003. Her life truly exemplified the words of Christ: "I was in prison and ye came unto me" (Matthew 25:36) as well as the counsel to "be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness" (D&C 58:27).
I found this interesting listing of the most famous books set in each state, though I was a bit chagrined to see which book got top billing in my current state of residence. Twilight? Really? Kansas gets The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Alabama gets To Kill a Mockingbird. And Washington gets Twilight. (Nothing against vampires, werewolves, and all, but is that the best we can do in the Evergreen State? Meyer set her books in Forks, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula, after a google search told her it had the fewest sunny days of any place in the continental United States, all the better for her characters who sparkle in the sun.)
What about Snow Falling on Cedars? Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet? Jack Kerouac set his semi-autobiographical Desolation Angels in the north Cascades, and anything by Sherman Alexie counts for sure. The action of last year's Where'd You Go, Bernadette? happens mostly in Seattle. The Orchardist takes place in central Washington, and The Last Town on Earth is set in a small town in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.
Yes, I know if we're talking about the "most famous book" set in Washington it'd probably have to be Twilight, since hundreds of millions of copies have been sold of the books and the movies grossed kajillions of dollars. But still...step it up, Washington authors!
Reading is good for you!