The Reckonings: Essays
This extraordinary, timely new collection of essays by the award-winning writer of The Other Side—rooted in her own experience with sexual assault—pursues questions about the nature of justice in a culture obsessed with retribution.
In 2014, Lacy M. Johnson was giving a reading from The Other Side, her “instant classic” (Kirkus Reviews) memoir of kidnapping and rape, when a woman asked her what she would like to happen to her rapist. This collection, a meditative extension of that answer, draws from philosophy, art, literature, mythology, anthropology, film, and other fields, as well as Johnson’s personal experience, to consider how our ideas about justice might be expanded beyond vengeance and retribution to include acts of compassion, patience, mercy, and grace.
From “Speak Truth to Power,” about the condition of not being believed about rape and assault; to “Goliath,” which explores the concept of evil; to “Girlhood in a Semi-Barbarous Age,” a reflection on the sacred feminine, the “ideal woman,” and feminist art, Johnson creates masterful, elaborate, gorgeously written essays that speak incisively about our current era. She grapples with violence and retribution, truth and fairness, and sexual assault and workplace harassment, as well as the broadest societal wrongs: the BP Oil Spill, government malfeasance, police killings. The Reckonings is a powerful and necessary work, ambitious in its scope, that strikes at the heart of our national conversation about the justness of our society.
The Other Side: A Memoir
Lacy Johnson was held prisoner in a soundproofed room in a basement apartment that her ex-boyfriend rented and outfitted for the sole purpose of raping and killing her. She escaped, but not unscathed. The Other Side is the haunting account of a first passionate and then abusive relationship, the events leading to Johnson’s kidnapping and imprisonment, her dramatic escape, and her hard-fought struggle to recover. At once thrilling, terrifying, harrowing, and hopeful, The Other Side offers more than just a true crime record. In language both stark and poetic, Johnson weaves together a richly personal narrative with police reports, psychological evaluations, and neurobiological investigations, provoking both troubling and timely questions about gender roles and the epidemic of violence against women.
For its frank and fearless confrontation of the epidemic of violence against women, The Other Side was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an Edgar Award in Best Fact Crime, the CLMP Firecracker Award in Nonfiction; it was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writer Selection for 2014, and was named one of the best books of 2014 by Kirkus, Library Journal, and the Houston Chronicle.
Tin House Books, 2014
Trespasses: A Memoir
A series of vividly rendered personal narratives, Trespasses: A Memoir recounts the coming of age of three generations in the rural Great Plains. In examining how class, race, and gender play out in the lives of two farm families who simultaneously love and hate the place they can’t escape, Lacy Johnson presents rural whiteness as an ethnicity worthy of study. As she dismantles the complex history of a forgotten place while fighting to keep its people whole, Johnson reflects on a place that outsiders can cross into or pass through, but may never fully know. From formal and informal research methods, Johnson has produced an innovative collection of prose poems and essays that together create an exciting work of contemporary nonfiction.
Examining region through the lenses of memory (experience), history (memory made public), and theory (experience abstracted), Trespasses is a deeply intelligent work, at the center of which is the author, always feeling as if she doesn’t belong but not sure where she else she should be. In this profound work, Johnson drifts gracefully back and forth between timelines and voices in a way that illustrates how her present is connected to the many pasts she chronicles.
University of Iowa Press, 2012.