The timing was perfect. I’d been reading ‘Hiroshima in the Morning’ by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto. In fact, I was glued to it, a memoir of something unexpected, especially by its author. Reiko Rizzuto received a project grant to interview remaining survivors of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. She was writing a novel and needed the stories for her characters. But the book she had planned to write never happened, instead she found herself in Japan realizing, at 37 years old, she had never really lived on her own and there she was navigating a culture different from her own and discovering her American ‘ways’ were not getting the results she needed in Japan. Her marriage takes a turn for the worse across the distance, then the Trade Towers go down in the city where her family lives. Her book becomes a memoir of these experiences, it becomes a book about survival, self-knowledge, loss, and change. I could feel this book taking shape inside of myself, it was taking me to a place of greater strength and understanding for writing my own memoir. (which is currently half complete and in a perpetual state of change and discovery). I was reading and writing and taking deep breaths and starting over again and again with the belief that I can, in fact, write this book, tell my story, find words for it all, find a reason to be who I have become.
Part of my struggle: Hurricane Katrina. This event is part of my story and an important one at that. Yet I have spent hours trying to find ways not to tell it. Reiko’s book was changing me, her words, her story, were shifting the fear of this part of my story into a need for it to exist on paper. And before I could find a way to wiggle out of even this, Steve Bradley called and asked if I would speak on Post-Katrina New Orleans to the class he and Dr. Moffit had been teaching on the city of New Orleans. I said yes. Had he called a week earlier I would have said no. Had I not been reading Reiko Rizzuto I would have said no. If I could have made my mouth say no, I would have said no. But I didn’t, I said yes.
Having no words on this subject to dig out and paste into a presentation, and also having been asked to touch on the arts in New Orleans, I used the invitation to create and perform a reading on the subject of Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, I walked into a room of thoughtful young people whom I appreciate very much.
And this is what I said to them . . .