I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve had a privileged life, but I have been lucky in so many ways. I grew up in towns that were safe and friendly. I have a loving and supportive family that has my back no matter what. I have friends that I love dearly and who have helped me through some very rough times…I have a roof over my head, food in my cabinets, and a wonderful, funny, and amazing husband.
I’ve had good jobs that have given me incredible life lessons…I had an amazing education and have teachers I STILL keep in touch with even 10+ years later. Sure, there have been some difficulties, but overall, I can’t say that my life – so far, at least – hasn’t been too bad.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. Some people are gravely ill, others don’t have the support network of family and friends. Some never really find happiness and others are so afraid of giving themselves to someone that they forever remain alone. Some are abused, neglected, ignored, raped or tortured…and, perhaps saddest of all, must carry that around with them for the rest of their lives.
In Becoming Unbecoming, a young girl growing up in 1977 finds herself on the receiving end of a series of violent acts for which she feels she is to blame. The girl, Una, experiences gender violence, rape, and depression and lacks the ability to talk about it or find the help she needs. Through image and text, Una asks what it means to grow up in a culture where male violence goes unquestioned and challenges a nation that doesn’t know how to punish the accuser or deal with the victim’s hurt.
This is a beautifully sad book that is so important for everyone to read, girls and boys alike. It’s a journey into the head a victim, a diary of sorts that’s so personal, you might even find yourself looking over your shoulder to make sure no one catches you reading it.
Told with amazing illustrations that perfectly encapsulate what it’s like to be alone and sad, Becoming Unbecoming is maybe one of the most important books I’ve ever read…and will certainly stay with me for a long time to come.
I am in no way qualified to give Becoming Unbecoming the review it deserves. I am not a victim of rape or abuse and can’t even begin to think what it’s like to live with something like that. But I do know what it’s like to hurt…I know what it’s like to be depressed. I’ve hit rock bottom and I’ve worked my way out of it and it’s a bitch of a journey. I know what it’s like to be at a loss for words…to want to say something so badly but unable to say anything. To feel a sense of emptiness that seems to seep out of your skin, surrounding you in a blanket of sadness…
Yes, I know what that’s like…and chances are, some of you do, too. And for those of us who have had to deal with hurt, depression, or even more traumatic life experiences that so few may understand, it’s so important to know that we’re not alone. There’s help out there. There’s love out there. And if you can’t find it, open yourself up and let it come to you.
If there’s one thing I learned in Becoming Unbecoming, it’s that healing – in whatever form it may take – is a journey. It’s in no way perfect, and is often a battle we don’t have the energy to fight. And when society starts blaming the victim for elements out of their control, it becomes impossible to heal, to accept. We must change the way we deal with transgressors and their victims. We must have the courage to speak up and out against those who hurt us, and must find the strength within ourselves to help those who find it so hard to barely hold on.
We’re all in this together…and we all have the power to make a difference. Whether you take time to volunteer at a shelter or start by just checking this book out of the library, chances are you’ll benefit from it.
Una’s story is raw and emotional. Her illustrations are real and tragic. This is a book that will sit with you, that will put things into perspective. Ironically, it’s a book that may even encourage discussion. In a word, Becoming Unbecoming is veracious. It puts the truth right out there in big bold letters…and it’s up to us, as a reader…as a society…to hear the message. Otherwise, as Una says, we are only united by silence.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.