Lydia Yuknavich on Mythologies We Adopt to Make Sense of Violence

Longreads

Lydia Yuknavich, author of the acclaimed new novel The Small Backs of Children, has a haunting essay up at Guernica about “Laume,” a mythological water spirit and guardian of all children that her Lithuanian grandmother introduced her to when she was young, and about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of violence and tragedy:

I had a recurring dream for twenty years that I would have three sons.

I did not have three sons, and I’m fifty-two, so it’s not looking likely. What I did have was a daughter, who died, and one son, sun of my life. But I did have three husbands.

Maybe dreams don’t mean a goddamned thing.

Or maybe they mean everything.

They say you marry a man who is like your father. My father, the artist-turned-architect, molested and abused us. He was big. Angry. Loud-fisted. Marked us forever—three little women, making for…

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