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  • jeffreylrichardsau

Content Warning and Why I Write

I do not write easy books. I tend to tackle difficult subjects and do so in a realistic, matter-of-fact manner. I do not write books that help the reader escape the world. I write to understand the world, my world, and, in turn, hopefully to help you understand your world. I write to understand why people do the things they do to other people.


Both my first novel, The Summer of Jenny Wade, and my second novel, We Are Only Ghosts, contain incidences of sexual abuse of adolescents (both characters are 15 when they are abused). This is because I am a survivor of familial sexual abuse that went on for the majority of my childhood (from when I was pre-kindergarten to well into my teens), and I write to understand how this happened and how this was allowed to continue to happen. I do this via fiction versus memoir because it’s easier for me to stand back and view what happened to me and to shine a light on what continues to happen to thousands upon thousands of children every day throughout the world. Fiction offers me the opportunity to use a more critical eye rather than getting mired in the quicksand of emotions that years of therapy have taught me how to avoid.


Now, I do not include this subject in my writing out of any sense of salaciousness, though my unflinching style and the fact that the perpetrators are always entirely human (because they are in the real world, just so you know) might lead some readers to think I condone or fetishize child sexual abuse in any way, when the reality is I just live it, every single day. No matter how old I get or how far removed I am from my childhood or how much therapy I go through, the acts perpetrated on me when I was a child are ingrained in my psyche and are part of my DNA as a person and will continue to infuse my writing in some form or another.


An off chute of this is that I write to humanize evil. I’m not a fan of evil, that intangible culprit that people like to think infects normal people and drives them to do unspeakable acts against others. For me, evil does not exist, it is merely an excuse or a belief that helps people sleep at night. But the reality is humans are not always good to each other and sometimes they are downright horrible to each other. I write to shine a light on these types of humans and those who allow them to thrive in our society.


This was the true focus of my first novel, The Summer of Jenny Wade, where a 17-year-old girl is raped in a small town in Oklahoma, ultimately becoming a pariah, who enters a friendship with her best friend’s brother, a 15-year-old who has been preyed upon by his former sixth-grade teacher. For me, the story was about putting a face on “evil” and about the lengths normal people will go to save their comfort and their sense of security and becoming “evil” in the process.


My second novel, We Are Only Ghosts, tells the story of a man whose past through the concentration camps of eastern Europe during the holocaust comes back to him in the form of the Nazi officer who singled him out when he was deported to Auschwitz. The officer brings him into family home to work during the day and to provide him sex at night. The “relationship” (I’m loathe to use the word but any connection we have to others is, in effect, a relationship and should not always be viewed as a positive) is fraught with confused emotions that are not easy to accept or understand but are all too real (along the lines of Stockholm Syndrome, which many sexually abused children experience, especially when the perpetrator is someone close to them, leading them to protect their abuser versus turn them in). But the main character had been primed to fall under the sway of the Nazi officer when he was abused at a younger age. The novel goes on to explore the repercussions of this “relationship” and its lingering effects.


Again, none of this was written or is offered gratuitously but is germane to the stories and to the purpose of my writing. So, none of my writing is easy to read and should never be easy to read; these subjects should always be difficult to read and to take into oneself, otherwise complacency sets in and that’s where these acts tend to live and breathe.


All this is to say that readers should be aware before diving into one of my books because the depths and monsters might not be the ones you want to encounter without any sort of warning first.


So, for those who benefit from them, here are some general content warnings:

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Sexual abuse against children (adolescents); Holocaust violence; Anti-semitism; Rape;

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