Believe it or not, on the final edit of my most recent novel, Finding Eden, I removed the word “f-ck” from the manuscript where it felt superfluous or excessive. And yet somehow, the word “f-ck” appears in some variation throughout the book 296 times.
That number – which I only just verified in the last five minutes – is surprising. I knew that my manuscript was laced with profanity, but I didn’t realize there were enough f-bombs to have one per page. I wasn’t trying to write a vulgar book. In fact, even with this new statistic, I still wouldn’t describe Finding Eden as vulgar or profane. In all honestly, it’s probably a slightly watered-down version of reality.
In Finding Eden, the girls all come from Orthodox, Jewish backgrounds and are sent to Eden, a therapeutic boarding school where they can confront their traumas in a safe setting. When they arrive at Eden, they are expected to give up every coping skill and crutch that they’ve been relying on – self-harm, eating disorders, high-risk sex, theft, body modification – and for the most part, they do, but their patterns of speech, and their need to express the intensity of their emotions isn’t something that can be taken from them.
If I’d taken out the curse words, Kayli, my main character, would have lost her voice. Kayli is hanging on to life by a thread, and you can be sure that every thought running through her mind contains swear words.
If you don’t believe me, let me tell you what it’s like to be in a residential setting with troubled adolescents, because that’s been my work environment for the better part of the last decade. I know what it’s like to be around teenagers who bleed pain, teenagers who have been rejected by their families, teenagers who are alive despite their best efforts to be dead.
I know what it’s like when teenagers relive their trauma, when they dissociate from their body because to be present with the memories is simply impossible. I know what it’s like when teenagers rage so hard that the adults around them need to step in and physically restrain them so that everyone in the vicinity stays safe. I know what it’s like when teenagers lose all sense of self because the adults in their lives have had so little regard for their boundaries.
I know that it’s uncomfortable to have a book about Orthodox, Jewish teenagers contain profanity, sexual content, hideous trauma, and unfortunate truths. I know because I kept this book under wraps for a long time. Finding Eden sat on my computer for years before I even thought about sharing it with the world.
I know it’s uncomfortable for you to read it because of how uncomfortable it was to write it. Writing this book made me cry. Writing this book made me feel depressed and helpless. Writing this book made me walk around seething with anger at all the injustice in the world. And even though it made me feel horrible, I’m asking you to read it.
Read this book because these girls are hurting. Read this book because if it makes you feel even a tiny bit more empathy for the troubled teenager in your life, it will be worth it. Read this book because someday you may need to understand someone who has been hurt deeply, and this will give you a window to that sort of pain.
Read this book even though it contains the word “fuck” 296 times. It’s what you would hear if you were actually there.
To find this book on Amazon, click here.