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I Never Wanted to Be a Stereotype

A Sociologist’s Narrative of Healing

Cindy Brooks Dollar

Trauma and its consequences are social phenomena. Coming from a working-class family and raised in a small, rural Southern area, this author's narrative offers a unique style of life history reporting whereby the author uses her academic standpoint to situate her life experiences in broader macro-social and cultural contexts. Weaving scholarship with personal narrative, the author highlights connections between self and social awareness, which is crucial, especially in a modern, Western context where the rhetoric of excessive individualism is prioritized. Discussing various issues, including objectification, violence, isolation, stigma, trauma, shame, integration, healing, peace, and love, she illustrates the application and significance of sociological knowledge to individual life. Many chapters include and conclude with excerpts from the author’s diary entries, which she has maintained for over 30 years. These provide a relatively unfiltered glimpse into her personal and social consciousness throughout various life stages, including adolescence, teens, young and middle adulthood. The book closes with a summary of existing research on trauma and recovery, which often promotes the use of body-based therapies. The author argues that these findings have important implications for sociology given the body’s symbolic socio-cultural status and how it is used to maintain existing inequalities and inequities, which (re)produce shared forms of trauma and differential access to recovery.

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Chapter 1. What Is This?

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· 1 · WHAT IS THIS?

“Get a piece of the rock!” Andrew Brolin1 said as he grabbed my backside. I tightened my legs and fixed my gaze at the head in front of me hoping to hide my humiliation. My thoughts screamed with sadness until Murry Browning’s laugh transformed them into stifled rage. This happened at least once a day, nearly every day of the school year. When we left the classroom to go to lunch or outdoor play, the teacher instructed us to line up alphabetically, putting Andrew directly behind me and Murray behind him. Hoping to remain hidden, hurt bubbled from my stomach into my throat, but I would push them back down with an inward stare. Why do we need to line up like this? Each time that line formed, my body stiffened. Nothing’s happening. Just stand still. Don’t move. If I pretend like it’s not happening, no one else will see it. Not moving was my power because Andrew’s grip threatened to weaken me so deeply that the only other possible reaction was dropping to the ground like lead. Instead, my body didn’t seem to flinch. No words came out of my mouth. No tears rolled down my face. I was as stiff and quiet as a corpse. In many ways, I was just that.

As I write this, I experience the same shameful feelings these encounters inspired over 30 years ago. I wish I could say that this was the only time...

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