A geyser spewing water up in the air
A rollercoaster hitting a low point 75 mph
A bubble popping in midair
A river raging against a dam
A soul finally seeing the brink of a horizon
A musician crooning out a high note
A woman clenching her man in a tight embrace and gazing
at him like he is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen.
A drug addict twitching and grabbing his thigh after a fix
Multiply those images by 100 and divide them by infinity.
Then you will understand how a high feels to me.
Then you will understand why I can’t let it go.
–By Alexandra Caselle
When tragedy strikes, you feel like all of life’s anchors have unhitched and you are floating in limbo. Reality disintegrates into white tufts of dandelions in mid-flight. Your feet are in motion on top of terra firma; to you, it feels like nothing is grounding you.
Your past becomes an old friend, walking hand-in-hand with you. It has certain images set on instant replay, a gag reel of moments you want to go back to and retouch or edit, but you can’t and you are not laughing. You search for a way out, even though you are already free from harm’s way, though, in your mind, it is as real and fresh as an open wound.
Traumatic events are like that. They fracture your inner core and you are left with the pieces. You try to put them back together, but some of the edges won’t fit into their original places. Your only solace is a coping mechanism that only deepens the dissension.
Laurel is a teenage girl who is dealing with this type of situation in Jacqueline Woodson’s novel, Beneath a Meth Moon. Although Hurricane Katrina displaced bodies, the mind, unfortunately, was left behind. Laurel struggles with the memories of this natural disaster and the loss of her mother and grandmother. She relocates to another city and begins a new life. Her boyfriend, T-Boom, introduces her to the “moon,” and the drug provides an escape.
Woodson’s use of italics to enter Laurel’s mind transcends her experience to the reader. The reader does not see her as just a meth addict. He or she establishes an emotional connection and becomes overwhelmed with the urge to enter the story and grab her by the arms and save her from herself. The reader can also connect to the father’s anguish as he witnesses Laurel’s decline.
Adolescent girls can also connect to Laurel’s relationship with T-Boom. Often, they face a situation in which they must deal with someone trying to exert control over them. They may not know how to handle it and stay where they are.
As you follow Laurel’s journey and discover if she succumbs to the allure of the meth moon, you will come to understand the true meaning of the phrase of not judging someone until you have walked a mile in her shoes.
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow. Rachel Morse is a young survivor of a family tragedy. Her traumatic experience is not a natural disaster, but she and Laurel definitely have similar journeys in trying to cope with life-altering experiences through different ways. Not only does Rachel has to deal with trauma, but she also has to face issues involved with being biracial. It is another book in which the author’s writing style draws you into the characters’ experiences and hooks your emotions.
The Battle of Jericho by Sharon M. Draper This young adult novel deals with the issue of death by hazing. Jericho and his cousin undergo the ritual of being initiated into the high school band. One of the events results in the death of Jericho’s cousin. Jericho has to cope with the aftereffects of his cousin’s death. Draper’s book, along with Beneath the Meth Moon, offers an opportunity to bring real-life events from the media into the discussion of this narrative.
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous This book is an account of an adolescent’s experiences as a drug addict. Its eye-opening portrayal submerges the reader into what it is like to struggle with addiction.
Like Trees, Walking by Ravi Howard Even though this novel looks at the tragedy of lynching through a historical lens, the common bond between it and Beneath the Meth Moon is the effects of trauma on those who are left behind, mainly young people who are intricately connected to the victims.
Come Hell or High Water by Michael Eric Dyson This nonfiction book examines Hurricane Katrina through a critical and sociological lens. It connects to the Laurel’s narrative because it provides an intimate look into the natural disaster and its effects through the social constructs of race and class. Through Laurel’s eyes, the reader delves into the personal, psychological, and emotional effects of the hurricane.
What other books or stories that deal with traumatic experiences, natural disasters, or drug use can you suggest?
In what other ways can traumatic experiences affect an individual, a family, a community, or a nation?