Margo Dill: It would be a shame to bypass this powerful book
"Dancing at the Shame Prom" is a new, well-written, inspiring anthology from Seal Press, full of true stories from courageous women who are facing, through their writing, the shame that could hold them back from experiencing life to the fullest.
Editors Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter make this statement about shame in the introduction: "A destroyer of dreams, a pervasive darkness; an enabler ... Aretha sang about it ... Elizabeth Edwards wrote and spoke about it ... Tiger Woods lied because of it ... Oprah Winfrey did 17 shows about it."
The editors put together the anthology to encourage writers and readers to face shame and understand they are not alone — most people feel some shame. As well as sharing their own stories, Ferris and Dexter found 25 women to share personal, heartbreaking, beautiful and terrifying stories about shame.
When readers finish this book, they will feel inspired — to reach out to someone they might not have talked to in years, to get help for a problem they've been avoiding or even just to go to their family members and give them a big hug.
Readers also will have their faith restored in the power of well-written words: There's not one story in this anthology that isn't engaging or powerful. Some might resonate more with you personally than others, but the editors and writers did a terrific job with telling their stories.
So, what kind of shame stories did these writers share in their personal essays? The book begins with a story titled "Thread by Thread" by Lyena Strelkoff, the author of the one-woman autobiographical play "Caterpillar Soup" and the blog "It's Not About the Chair" (http://itsnotaboutthechair.com).
Her essay in the "Shame Prom" anthology is about her troubled childhood leading to a paralyzing accident in her early 30s that landed her in a wheelchair, which she wrote her award-winning play about. In spite of her success, she still struggles with feeling inadequate and wants readers "to gain greater compassion for themselves."
Other stories in this book reveal shame caused by incest, drug use, divorce, affairs, poverty and more. The editors include a long list in the beginning starting with dropping out of school and ending with selling out.
The editors tackle difficult subjects: Dexter had a father who was in prison and a mother who changed their name and said NEVER to speak about him; Ferris' parents fought and cussed — and then she told a dirty joke to her entire elementary school class during show and tell.
The last essay was one of the most poignant: "1329 Lynx Trail," written by Samantha Dunn. She explains that her mother was what people would refer to as a hoarder. Dunn stopped trying to help her mother clean up, and she moved away, inviting her mother, who was also an alcoholic, to come out to see her twice a year instead of ever going home. The address in the title is where her mother lived.
This essay is a page-turner, leaving you wondering what is going to happen to mother and daughter and what you would do if you were in the author's place.
The editors have put together a website, http://www.theshameprom.com. It gives information about the book and authors, including reviews. There's also an opportunity for readers to share their own stories about shame through a blog.
Shame is a subject that isn't discussed much — except on talk shows — although we have all probably felt it at some point in our lives. Some of us might still.
"Dancing at the Shame Prom" celebrates brave women who are facing their shame and not letting it control their lives. In the meantime, they are also helping readers do the same.
Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/). Formerly of East Central Illinois, she now lives in St. Louis with her family.