Year: 2016

The Legacy of Trauma Is Love: Miriam Toews’ ‘All My Puny Sorrows’

Rachel Yehuda, a Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Mount Sinai New York, is the Director of Traumatic Stress Studies Division and studies epigenetics, looking not just at the effects that trauma can have on an individual but how the impact of trauma reverberates through the bloodline of that individual. Early in her career, she found that ‘gene changes in the children’ and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors ‘could only be attributed to exposure in the parents’ to trauma, to hunger, to persecution, to torture. In an interview with David Samuels she points out that ‘you’re three times more likely to respond to a traumatic circumstance by getting PTSD if your parent had it’. It is thought that 30% of children whose parents have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. However, for Yehuda, as Samuels so eloquently puts it, a traumatic event often ‘switches on’ resilience itself. Yehuda believes in the ability of the individual to respond positively to the legacy of trauma they are left; in the Jewish community she saw an ‘overwhelming …

A Life Lived In Colour: Why Azar Nafisi’s ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ Is Still Relevant Today

Azar Nafisi’s ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’, the story of an University Professor who resigned her post and began secretly to teach her seven students about Western Literature in her own home in post-revolution Iran, was New York Times Bestseller for one hundred and seventeen weeks. Critics argue that its depiction of everyday life in Iran is obsolete, but the message about both the power of literature and of the individual can never truly be ‘dated’. As I write this, I am wearing a tomato-red cardigan, a striped blue shirt, the colour of the sky on a bright summer’s day, lime-green socks. My hair is loose around my shoulders and mascara paints my eyelashes, earrings the size of pebbles hanging either side of my face. The women in Azar Nafisi’s ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ – a book which is both a testament to the power of literature and the imagination as much as it is a testament to her seven students, her fellow readers – wear similarly colourful clothing. The book opens describing a photograph of …