I'm not going to do it to you. This week everyone went online to post comments and talk about Will Smith's decision to slap Chris Rock. While I have my opinions about how masculine constructs often interfere with the emotions of love, jealousy, and anger, I will let other writers, critics, family members, and friends take the stage on this recent controversy.
This week's blog post is about a memoir that reinforces the importance of self-reflection while developing positive self-awareness. Don’t read this as a critical review of Jocelyn Winn’s book, One of Nine; A Collection of True Stories that Prompted Suicidal Thoughts and Began a Remarkable Journey to Find a Reason to Live. The author is my first cousin, and familial bias is inherent in anything that I write after this sentence about the book.
I last saw Jocelyn at my uncle’s funeral. My family and I had moved to Mexico, but we were back in the States to handle immigration affairs and spend time with family. The untimely death of my uncle forced many to return to Los Angeles for the first time in many years.
In the funeral parlor's lobby, Jocelyn and I talked about writing before the services began. We were working on our first books and bonded through discussing the challenges of putting words to pages. When the funeral ended, we hugged and encouraged each other to keep pursuing our projects.
If memory serves me correct, my uncle passed in November of 2017.
About a month ago, I received a text message from the cousin whose father’s funeral we attended almost five years ago. The text with a picture of the book's cover read, “Pick this up on Amazon. Great stories. I was to be in bed early tonight but could not put it down.”
I replied, "I will check it out! I didn't know she finished it."
Earlier this month, I ordered the book and picked it up when I visited my parents. I finished it this week and joined my cousin’s excitement in the memoir’s stories.
Jocelyn Winn’s book begins by recounting a desperate search to find a therapist. She was going through a difficult time, and suicide felt like the best option to escape. Jocelyn knew she needed to talk with a professional in psychotherapy.
Give thanks that she found someone willing to walk her back from the ledge and listen to her stories.
Who knew? I suspect at least one of her eight siblings or a close friend was aware of her dire situation. While I hadn't seen Jocelyn in a long time before my uncle’s funeral, she always looked beautiful and radiated kindness.
The entire Winn family always looked well-polished and put together whenever our families connected. Growing up, I admired the hair texture of the three Winn boys. They had the slickest waves and most perfect curls.
Reading Jocelyn's collection of stories helped me see the other side of the Winn’s flawless public appearances.
She and her siblings struggled to find themselves in a household that emphasized strict adherence to Biblical teachings. From Jocelyn’s perspective, my aunt and uncle took every opportunity to let scriptures guide their parenting roles. Among other examples, the daughters were only allowed to wear skirts to align with passages that emphasized modesty.
The overemphasis on moralism and decorum produced a woman lacking in confidence about her gender, race, and sexual identities. You will have to read the book to learn how internalized insecurities influenced her at home, school, and work.
Reading Jocelyn's stories helped me reexamine some of my household practices. In learning about the impact of her parent’s decisions on her development, I reevaluated a couple of the firm rules that keep my children in order most of the time. I realized that I parent in some ways like my parents.
One story shared near the end of the book involving my grandmother made me call home for verification. One night my grandfather hit grandma because he was drunk, and she didn't move quick enough to make him a sandwich. My mom, who I believe Jocelyn calls Aunt Ruby in the book, confirmed this horrific incident.
I cringed at the thought of the pool of blood on the floor left behind by grandmother for my mother and her twelve siblings to clean and drown in sadness.
My only biased critique of the book is that Jocelyn didn't establish a firm connection between the stories. Each chapter is well-written with descriptive details and informative dialogue, but I missed the cohesive message. After my second read of the book, I hope to find a theme tieing the various plots together.
Jocelyn’s memoir makes a strong case for the value of writing your stories and reflecting on childhood to understand yourself better. Thanks to her dedication to writing, a caring therapist, and divine intervention, she found the skills to express, analyze, and process problems. But, most importantly, her expressions gave her reasons to live.
Writing and talking about your life’s challenges can produce similar results for you. Sometimes, we need a creative outlet or a professional to get through a difficult time.
Jocelyn's book offers an example. Pick up your copy today at this link.
The stories in the book will demonstrate the power of language to help you find yourself whenever you get lost in your feelings. Reading memoirs is an alternative to slapping someone because they said something unkind about your partner. Ooops, I said I wouldn’t go there.
Please forgive me. I make mistakes like Will Smith and Chris Rock. Imperfections are the prices we pay to live on this planet. Subscribe for more posts inspired by humble ideas about love, compassion, justice, adventure, and self-care.