Skip to main content

#AmReading The Awakening by Kate Chopin (with Safety Gear)

I have just read the introduction (by Marilynne Robinson in this edition) and first few chapters of Kate Chopin's The Awakening. I am immediately reminded of Nedjma's The Almond: The Sexual Awakening of a Muslim Woman, published only about a decade ago.

Although The Almond was written over a century after The Awakening, I read The Almond first. I still remember the sting of reaching the last page and despairing of finding the kind of mind-body-spirit enlightenment implied by the positive word "awakening." I thought a better word might be "disillusionment." Or perhaps, at best, "disenchantment."

It is the story of a girl sexually abused in an oppressive culture, who escapes that culture only to carry the burden of her unhealed trauma into unfamiliar territory, where she wanders compulsively and blindly through (to her) a social wilderness without form, vulnerable and easily victimized. She regresses to her childhood before the trauma, attempts to rediscover her sexual self, suffers new trauma, and finally gives up on sexuality, love, and happiness entirely.


I was expecting some kind of awakening to pleasure based on the cover of the book and found myself whip-lashed into a story of pain awakening to deeper pain.

It left a lasting impression on me.

So I thought it was very, very good--insofar as it moved me, showed me an example of a world less familiar to me, and made me think about it and remember it for years afterward--even though I did not enjoy reading the book in the least.

As a woman who did escape a sexually oppressive and abusive culture (of particularly authoritarian Roman Catholicism)--granted, without suffering the kind of trauma personally that Nedjma's character did--and found friends and lovers in early adulthood who graced my life with healing, loving, healthy expressions of sexuality--I felt, after reading The Almond, like someone who had crossed a perilous river and reached the shore, only to look back and see a companion drown.

Ophelia in the Thistles by Georges Jules Victor Clairin

This time around, I'm wise to the old trick presented by the word "Awakening" in the title of a book dealing with an oppressed woman's sexuality. Based on the introduction and heavy foreshadowing presented in the early chapters of Chopin's novel, I've been spoilered enough to see where this story is going.

Let's see, we have a girl with a naturally high sex drive who lives in an oppressive culture that acts like a pressure cooker, turning a normal human impulse into a consumptive obsession.

She escapes that culture and ends up with the first man who lavishes her with sexual and romantic attention, even though she doesn't know him well. Of course, it doesn't work out happily ever after.

She feels lost in her new environment, where people seem to act so freely that she loses her senses of moral and individual orientation. She cannot even be sure about how she feels, or why, or what she remembers from her own past. She is disoriented with her relative freedom, lacking the lifelong cultural competence with which to navigate her new society. She feels out of place, inadequate, and confused.

Meanwhile, her sexual desires stay repressed, because unlike her new friends, she did not marry for love, and she is not comfortable enough to joke about sex, talk freely about sex, or express herself in safe, playful ways. Although she has escaped her oppressors, she has carried the repression into her new life and has not successfully integrated with a different way of living.

She is distressed, frustrated, and vulnerable as a kitten in a paper sailboat.

Sounds familiar.

I'm going to keep reading, because it's all about the exquisite details of how the story is told, not just what happens. But I'm definitely putting on my emotional scuba suit this time.


Popular posts from this blog

Ich Liebe Rammstein: Till

UPDATE: After purging his sillies on the side project LINDEMANN and participating in another Rammstein documentary video, Till has begun work on a seventh Rammstein album, estimated to be released in 2017.  Till Lindemann
Till Lindemann is the only living human who could kick Chuck Norris's ass, but he doesn't, because they go on emo hunting trips together. The source of this fact, Urban Dictionary, also provides the following essential details: "Till Lindemann is the anthropomorphic personification of pure masculinity who invented the often-lethal dance move: The Till Hammer..." "He challenges the definition of masculine..." "Every German fertility clinic features a cardboard cutout of Till Lindemann choking a shark with one hand, whilst cradling a kitten in his other, looking directly at the stirrups in the insemination room. To this day they have a 100% success rate."

To the chagrin of most of the band, including Till himself, Rammstein is, …

Ich Liebe Rammstein: Richard

Richard Z. Kruspe
Richard Zven Kruspe is Rammstein's founding father, lead guitarist, and natural frontman. He's gregarious, well-spoken in both German and English, a professional showman, and an enthusiastic promoter for the band. In German, his name is pronounced "REE-kard," and in Germanglish, "Reeshard," or "Reesh" for short. Richard is sexy, and he knows it. To many Rammstein fans, he is the cuuuuuuute one. His Facebook page would have you believe it.

Legend has it that Richard has a lovechild with lead singer Till Lindeman. The myth is based in complicated facts and figures, including one unconventional love triangle. Circa 1990, Richard and Till were in a band together (along with future Rammstein rhythm guitarist Paul Landers) with the cheeky name First Arsch. Till, the drummer, was a single father of a little girl at the time, the issue of a short-lived, youthful shotgun wedding--to Richard's current girlfriend. When "Mrs. Lindem…

The Love Howl of the Wolf Mother

"Don't say 'big, bad,'" my three-year-old daughter Nux Gallica tells me when I read her bedtime stories. "Just say 'the wolf.'" When groups of wolves appear on the page (usually in a sinister context), she makes up individual characteristics for them. "This is the mama wolf, this is the sister, and this is the auntie. And this one is thirsty for a drink of water."

I am proud of Nux's wisdom and grateful that she doesn't buy into stereotypes so easily. Because I, myself, am a Wolf Mother. We Wolf Mothers are deeply fulfilled by parenting and strongly engaged with our children, but our passionate immersion in motherhood has the tendency to isolate us from many people who filled our lives in the years BC (Before Child). So I want to send out a howl of love to all those I treasure from a distance while I lie low in the den of early-years motherhood. 

We Wolf Mothers are deeply instinctual. We are dependent on our mates and packs,…