Book Review: Black and Blue

by Laura on 02/26/2010 · 0 comments

Many moons ago, I worked as a community educator at a domestic violence center. I spoke to female and male prisoners, young teens and police officers, sharing stories about the dynamics of domestic violence, spreading the word and searching for advocates.

These conversations changed me for life. No class in college could ever teach me what I learned during these years.

After I left, it was extremely important to me to continue to educate myself on the topic even after I’d left the job – from books, movies, talking to people – and found Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue through my research.

Domestic violence is a serious topic that deserves much attention. And even though the book is fiction, Quindlen keeps it amazingly real.

I’ll keep it too a simple truth, a key lesson from my reading that only reinforced what I’d learned through my teachings, the one fact I know to be true.

Domestic abuse is not someone else’s problem.

Quindlen’s masterpiece of a novel features Fran, a motivated young woman married to an initially captivating man, but ultimately abusive violent husband. After numerous, horrific events, she leaves him, starts a new life with her son, changes her name. I’ll leave it at that – as you can imagine, the increasing anticipation of ‘what’s next’ and the ultimate denouement pump the reader full of adrenaline.

Most of us are fully aware of the male/female dynamic of domestic abuse. But it’s important to remember is that domestic violence can take many forms. It can be between siblings, it can be wives abusing husbands, it can be adult children abusing their more helpless, aging parents.

The thread between them all is that there exists a guise of intimate connection that should presuppose kindness and security, but ultimately is a lie. It’s a dynamic of power, plain and simple.

Many often ask, “Why doesn’t she/he just leave if they’re being abused?”

I always challenge those individuals to research the topic a bit more before they judge. It’s actually never that simple.

I’ll leave it at that – this isn’t meant to be a downer of a review, but every once in a while, we need to recognize the books, articles, whatever, that educate us in a more serious way. They’re just as important as the ones that make us smile.

Just speak up.

There’s no shame in talking about topics that are not OK. There’s no shame in having a voice.  Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner are two women who have inspired me to keep my voice alive about this topic. Friend Kelly Diels started a massive conversation on violence, sex and power – she spoke up, speaks truth, stays real.

Fifteen years ago, we did not have the power of the Internet, blogs, Twitter to spread ideas like wildfire. In many countries, people still aren’t able to speak up. Use these privileges for good. Speak up for yourself, speak up for others.

Is there a social or political cause about which you feel passionate? Let’s keep the conversation going – post a comment – use your name or stay anonymous – take a stand. What you have to say means something and helps us keep it real.


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