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Learning to Swim: A Memoir

Review

Learning to Swim: A Memoir

"At night I dream / of swimming, / my arms move smoothly / through the water / it is so easy, so calm, / I am never afraid…" A luminous exploration of the effects of sexual abuse, LEARNING TO SWIM recalls one fateful summer in a young girl's life --- an innocent time when she should have been joyfully picking blueberries with her mother, playing with her brothers, and learning to swim with her father. Instead, she is forced to contend with the sexual advances of a neighborhood boy, actions that forever change her life. In a series of spare, one-page poems, Turner recalls the idyllic and then horrifying afternoons when the boy would lead her to her bedroom, defile her private parts, and reveal his. The use of free verse works well here, providing the perfect vehicle for bringing the fleeting, somewhat hazy quality of childhood memories into sharp relief. Book-ended by poems written in the author's adult voice, the story is divided into three chapters: "Sailing," "Sinking," and "Swimming," which further echo the metaphor of the title --- sink or swim.

Not for teens alone, this haunting memoir will benefit anyone dealing with the legacy of childhood sexual abuse. Words have the power to heal and to set one free; LEARNING TO SWIM is an exercise in both. And remember, "telling is what matters," so if you or someone you know are in need of help, don't hesitate to contact one of the national 24-hour help lines included at the back of the book.

Reviewed by Tammy L. Currier on October 1, 2000

Learning to Swim: A Memoir
by Ann Turner

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2000
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0439153093
  • ISBN-13: 9780439153096