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LYNN HALL'S "FLYAWAY" a tale of nonphysical abuse

From Chris Wayan's journal, 1997/7/6

Not a dream, for once. Flyaway by Lynn Hall, supposedly a kids' book, grips me so much I read obsessively till 2 AM.

Ariel, 17, and Robin, 14-15, look middle class, but they have literally no one cent. Never handled money. Never bought a soft drink for themselves! No allowances, and they're forbidden to work. Ariel tries tutoring, secretly, but dad finds out and simply takes her money.

And it's not just money. No free time, no dating, and no privacy. Few outside friends. Forced to do church work for no pay... They're forbidden to go out after dinner unless dad drives them and picks them up.

Dad's religion is strangling the whole family, and Mom meekly goes along.

Ariel works in her father's shop; he simply tells her she'll go on after graduation, though she wants to leave town.

Her great dream is so small! To move out, find a secretarial job in a college town, live in her own apartment, ski some on weekends, eventually save up money for college courses in architecture, date on her own, maybe meet someone she loves, eventually.

She tries dating a dull local boy even her dad can't find fault with, justifying to dad "You want me not to have a date at the prom? How will that look?" He's seen as a model dad--so solicitous of his kids. He falls for it, allows limited dates with Mr. Tepid--who won't help her escape. Her expectations of men are so low, she feels guilty for not loving this unhelpful lump.

Robin runs off with her best friend's dad, just to escape. He takes her to a big city, but soon leaves her. Abandoned, on the street, she never finds her feet there--gets caught and returned, her spirit broken.

Ariel, in contrast, keeps quietly planning, and does get out in the end. She plans to help Robin leave when she finishes high school--more years lost, more damage, but it can't be helped, for Dad's cover is too good: the school counselor says they can't pull Robin out, for legally their imprisonment isn't abuse. Beatings or rape might do it, but slow strangulation in the name of God is legal.

Flyaway leaves me enraged about my own family. For I recognize the pattern. In my case it was mostly my mom. Ariel's dad used a religious veneer for his control; my mother's justification for denying me any social or sexual identity was secular: she used pacifism and feminism. The only good men are as meek and self-denying as Christ or Gandhi. My father acted oblivious, just as Ariel's mom goes along blandly with their dad's tyranny.

But unlike Ariel, my prison walls extended outside my family. In school, I was cast as an asexual, asocial geek, partly due to my family's reputation, and partly from being a child prodigy who got pushed ahead in school--always the smallest and youngest in class. Oh, I'd have been taunted and beat up even if my family hadn't isolated me by their unspoken expectations. But just because school was a long nightmare too doesn't absolve my folks for denying me space to grow. With opportunity either at home or school, I might have fought to develop a life in the other arena, instead of giving up in the face of apparently universal consensus I should be a meek little sexless bookworm.

The result was much like Ariel: timid, with horribly low ambitions. What's MY big dream? To have a girlfriend who actually likes me, to become healthy enough to go out and play sometimes, to have a little spending money, to produce good artistic work and sell it.

To have a life instead of a waiting. To fly a little in this world, not just dreams.

And what makes me furious is, that's as much as I can imagine.

Sorry. End of rant. Only... how many more of us are there?

LISTS AND LINKS: ambition - Christianity - fanatics - family values - freedom - healing from abuse - books - also on nonphysical abuse: Elizabeth Feuer's Paper Doll

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