“I usually write out of rage,” said Laurie Halse Anderson. “I prefer fire coming out of my fingertips.”

Anderson has mastered the art of working with fire. She lights the fires of her soul and instead of getting burnt, she turns the flames into prose and poetry.

Anderson is a New York Times best-selling author who writes for children, teens and adults. Her books have sold over 8 million copies. Her books “Speak” and “Chains” were National Book Award finalists, and “Chains” was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.

Laurie Halse Anderson visited the Fairfield University Bookstore on March 11th to celebrate the release of her latest novel: ”Shout”, a memoir told in poetry. Anderson was interviewed by Meg Wolitzer, a successful novelist whose latest book, “The Female Persuasion”, was turned into a movie with Glenn Close.

Anderson explained how “Shout” is divided into two sections. The first section of “Shout” details the world that her parents came from, and how she grew up in a culture of silence. It tells the story of her rape at age 13, and how that act of sexual violence influenced the rest of her life.

The second part of the novel is what Anderson calls her ‘rage on the page’: the stories of survivors she has met. After years of book events, so many people have come up to Anderson and shared the stories of their own personal traumas. She wove many of these stories together into poetic narratives.

“Sexual violence is every single place we look. I’ve never met a woman, including some of my friends who are nuns, who hasn’t experienced some level of sexual violence. Women who are victims of sexual violence often completely change their life path depending on the timing of the violence,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s words produced a powerful effect in the women in the audience. During the question-and-answer session at the end of the event, there was a young woman who said that she had been assaulted. She wanted to know how to find the courage to tell her story, and she wanted to learn how to help empower other women.

Anderson told her that it was important to find someone whom she could confide in, and then discussed her own life. After 23 years of silence, Anderson went to therapy because she realized she wasn’t being a good mom to her daughters. Telling someone how she felt is how she transitioned from being a victim to being a survivor. Anderson also said that listening to survivors is one of the most important things you can do to support and empower them.

Women supporting women was a major theme of the night. Women of all ages gathered to hear Anderson’s words, and the emotional support was palpable in the air.  During one pivotal moment of the event, Anderson was asked if she ever worried what people thought about her. Anderson laughed. “No way! Life is too damn short.”

Another memorable moment was when Anderson said that people are like inflatable balls. If you find something to fill your life with, whether it is art or poetry or anything else, you will be strong enough to bounce back from anything life throws at you, and you will not break if you hit the ground. You will only rise up again.

As Anderson writes in her book, “When one suffers, all are weakened, but when everyone thrives, we dance.”

 

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