Stark Truths, Gillian Herbert’s latest memoir collection published in October 2017, tells of the cost an individual pays when living outside societal norms. At 17, in England in 1958, Gillian knew she was a lesbian. But she didn’t know that would entail learning to hide, dissemble and be frightened for her physical safety on a daily basis, for the rest of her life. In 2010 she spent time in Canada and was stunned to experience total acceptance. She says, “I could stand up, name my spouse, laugh with less reserve, chatter without censor. My scarred soul could breathe.”
“These linked stories trace a lesbian’s progress through the slowly changing face of homophobia in our lifetimes. From illegal lives filled with potential violence to the superficial equality that masks lingering prejudice, Gillian Herbert speaks bravely and honestly about one of the great issues of our time and how it impacted one woman’s life. This is a vital record that must never be forgotten.”
Judith Barrington, author of Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art.
When Gillian Herbert dug through a file of old family papers she launched a journey of exploration. Flipping through faded photos she recalled in raw black and white detail the moments that shaped her relationship with her parents. Skillfully crafted scenes from her youth reveal how illness, disability, and war combined with parental hopes, fears, and delusions to define her family. Herbert re-enters her experience as a child and young adult to present the stories from a youthful perspective, while steadily chipping away at the hard rock of her beliefs to reveal what her younger self could not see—the cost of keeping her father’s secrets. British understatement adds power to unsettling discoveries that sweep both writer and reader from Canada to England to Egypt and back to England.
“In Gillian Herbert’s Spare Scenes, we are drawn into a world of family, reminding us on every page that we are our history, which also becomes the fiber of our children’s lives. A warm, often intimate, certainly compelling collection of stories.”
Victoria Zackheim, Editor, Exit Laughing: How Humor Takes the Sting Out of Death