When I was first contacted about potentially being an editor for Finding Annie, Katherine Turner’s first novel, I connected to her writing on a soul-deep level. Unfortunately, I was going through some personal hardships and couldn’t be part of that first project, but I also received notes from a book in progress, which would later become her memoir—resilient. As I read through the pages of moments in the timeline of her life, as incomplete and imperfectly jotted down as they were in that early stage, I knew beyond doubt the book would be an important one. Months later, when she checked in to see if I was available to edit resilient—which, thankfully, I was—I read the full version and learned just how important.
As an editor, my first pass of a manuscript is always as a reader. I leave comments on the way through about my thoughts, reactions, and emotions, which I’ve found enables me to absorb the message and gives the author some insight into how their writing may come across to a reader. When I read through resilient the first time, I got to the end with almost no notes at all. Katherine’s story had gripped me so completely that I forgot to stop and write comments—it ceased to register as something I was doing for work and became an experience. My reactions were so deep and visceral that, if I stopped at all, it was to process what I was feeling and gather my bearings enough to continue.
What is fascinating about resilient is that Katherine writes in such a way that you don’t have to have gone through a particular type of trauma to relate or empathize with it. She opens doors to rooms full of dark things and then shines a light, somehow making you feel the memories with her. Though I have known hardship, life near the poverty line, and childhood sexual abuse, I have never known homelessness, the foster system, racial discrimination, or extreme physical and sexual abuse and neglect. resilient made me feel them all. It’s not the same, of course, but it is the closest I’ve ever connected to those experiences, and it gave me a level of understanding and compassion I didn’t realize I was lacking. It opened my mind and changed my perspective.
Shortly after editing resilient, I found out that several people close to me, ones I’d known all my life, had been homeless during a time where I had no clue they were going through it. One of those loved ones, just two years ago, had also been drugged and raped, then raped by someone else later on, and had the child fathered by the rapist because she couldn’t afford an abortion. These would have been heartrending truths no matter what, but with the newfound perspective I’d gained from Katherine’s life, they hit much harder because I understood more. Regardless of whether we’ve had trauma ourselves, we all have people we love who have gone through something—whether we know about it or not.
It may be uncomfortable, but resilient and true stories like it have the purpose of bringing together not only survivors, but the entire world. I realize more than ever the importance of sharing from all points of view and backgrounds; that is how we bring compassion to the world and strengthen the bonds to overcome the rifts between us. We must come to realize we really aren’t so different.
After reading resilient a few more times before the conclusion of editing, I felt heavy. I even had to take a few days away from it to process the sorrow, loss, and grief that came with the understanding. But then, after the weight from the difficult pieces eased, I felt something else.
I was in awe. The events of resilient are certainly heartbreaking in many ways, but the core of it—the core of Katherine—is one of strength, hope, and an unbreakable soul.
When I reflect on what I’ve taken away from resilient in the year since it came out, my first thought isn’t about the trauma and heartbreak. My first and lasting thought is about the power of connection and vulnerability—the true hope and strength of humanity. And the empowering realization that we are not alone.
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