In September 2002, Seattle writers and teachers Jack Remick and Robert Ray began a year-long memoir writing program at the University of Washington. Those first weeks and months I was so buried in the story I had begun to write I was blind to my classmates and their stories. Hadiyah Joan Carlyle was one of those classmates.
We wrote and read together in the same classroom for months. At break time I would usually wander off by myself lost in thought. I'm not sure what the others did. I do remember the day Hadiyah stopped me in the hall and pinned me to the spot with her piercing blue eyes.
"Are you reading?" I asked.
"No," she said. "But you need practice."
A few weeks later I was standing before my first audience with trembling hands and shaky voice, reading from a very early draft of The Thirty-Ninth Victim.
Since that winter of 2003 when Hadiyah refused to read at Third Place Books, she continued to work on her memoir. Torch in the Dark is now in print and I couldn't be happier. What I didn't know until recently was that throughout her struggles to get her story on the page and in print, Hadiyah was coping with the long-term effects of a brain injury sustained less than a decade earlier. She was riding her bike when she was hit and left unconscious at the side of the road. Doctors told her son she'd never recover. But Hadiyah proved them wrong just as she'd done earlier in her life, the life she explores in her new memoir.
Torch in the Dark takes the reader inside the mind of a young woman struggling to build a future on the brutal foundation of sexual child abuse and incest. Hadiyah headed for Haight Ashbury in the 1960s, a time and place that allowed, even endorsed experimentation, and freed her of incarceration in a mental institution - the place her father knew would seal away her (and his) secrets forever.
Torch in the Dark is as unique in Hadiyah's use of language as it is in her life experiences. As the first female welder in the Bellingham shipyards, torch in hand, hidden behind a welder's heavy mask, she found the strength to face her past and build a future for herself and her son. In a direct voice, and with unflinching honesty, Hadiyah Joan Carlyle tells her story.
I hope to see you at one of Hadiyah's upcoming readings:
1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98122
Sunday, June 3, 2012 @ 2:00PM
1200 11th Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
Thursday, June 14, 2012 @ 7:00PM