NEWS

“Incredibly timely, this essay collection (in the vein of Rebecca Solnit and Maggie Nelson) seamlessly weaves Johnson’s own thoughts and experiences with philosophy, art, literature, film, mythology and anthropology to tackle questions of justice and retribution, truth and fairness, harassment and assault — and most important, how to translate these feelings into action.” ~Caroline Donofrio, writing at CUP OF JO.

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“In The Reckonings: Essays, Lacy M. Johnson reflects on justice and retribution and raises difficult questions, all while using own personal experiences with violence and injustice, as well as examples that affect the masses.” ~Stephanie Topacio Long, writing in BUSTLE.

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“The breadth of topics that Johnson takes on in response to this act of violence in her life is remarkable, and her answers present readers with a profile in courage that deserves wide recognition,” writes Lorraine Berry at SIGNATURE BOOKS.

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According to Lucy Kogler at LITHUB, in THE RECKONINGS “Johnson writes with palpable compassion and brilliance, illuminating her deep humanity, while imbuing it in equal measure in the people she writes about and quotes.  That her influences include Audre Lorde, Simone Weil, Adrienne Rich makes for a clear understanding of what is constitutes the sacred ground on which she stands.” 

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BUSTLE calls THE RECKONINGS one of eleven introspective essay collections to read this fall.

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BOOKRIOT calls THE RECKONINGS one of eight essay collections to read this fall: "A gorgeous combination of personal narrative and investigative journalism, these essays ask more questions than they answer—in the best possible way.”

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THE RECKONINGS earns a starred review at BOOKLIST!

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KIRKUS calls THE RECKONINGS a “thoughtful and probing collection.”

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Lacy talks with THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE about stories, healing, and THE HOUSTON FLOOD MUSEUM: “[The trauma] feels like it becomes a part of who you are, not something you’re pushing against or trying to resist,” she says. “It’s not an infection; it’s a scar. It just loses some of the tenderness around it. “I hope that the museum is able to perform that same function.” Read the rest of the article here.

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WHY I MADE A FLOOD MUSEUM

I tend to dislike the term “recovery,” especially in any conversation about trauma, because it implies a return, a redemption, a retrieval of something that has been lost. One thing has become clear to me over the many years I have spent living with trauma: there is no going back for me, and there’s no re-becoming the person I once was. Writing about trauma has helped me to grieve that loss, maybe, if only because it forced me to fully acknowledge the ways that recovery was not possible. Discovery, on the other hand… well, that is always possible.

It didn’t feel like discovery was possible a year ago while the flood waters rose in my neighborhood of west Houston, while my husband and many of our neighbors pulled boats through waist-high water, knocking on doors, plucking people from their submerged houses. They discovered elderly couples, young roommates, single women living alone, families who do not speak English. They lifted everyone they could find into the boats, and hauled them to safety, to tender, attentive care, helped them to discover brand new shores.

All across the city, over the course those few days when catastrophic flooding threatened to drown us all, we discovered heroes in regular people who risked their lives to save anyone who needed saving: teenagers in canoes rescuing homeless veterans, beer brewers out in their giant trucks plucking people off their roofs, volunteers showing up at one another's doors with supplies, clothes, helping hands.

While my husband and these other heroes were out rescuing strangers, I was at home, caring for our own children who needed to be fed, for friends who needed food, supplies, power, and relief. I was glued to the weather, to the news, to trying to find information about what the Army Corps of Engineers at the reservoirs just to our West were planning to do. None of it seemed particularly useful, and in my desperation to do something — anything — useful, I started writing updates on Facebook for friends and family out of town. At first I wrote a couple of brief updates a day: about the rain bands, the tornado warnings, the river in our street. But soon the writing became a thing that I was doing not only for others, but also for me. I made the posts public and woke up to discover hundreds, sometimes thousands of comments and shares. (As in the case of this one.) I wrote as the rain fell in sheets, in swirls. I wrote while the water rose and filled the streets, while the streets overflowed and the water came over the sidewalks, up the yard, almost to the house, and then, when the Engineers opened the floodgates and intentionally flooded our neighborhood and others, I wrote as my family evacuated our home, trudging through fetid floodwaters while the Cajun Navy sent air boats flying up and down our street.

Would you believe me if I told you that writing these stories — hard as it was to focus — did in fact help? I think I had an idea that it would, which was maybe at least partially why I thought to write them in the first place. I’ve been a writer more than half of my life and during all this time I have learned that sometimes the hardest and most important work I’ve done has meant turning a story I couldn’t tell into one that I can — and that this practice on its own is not only one of discovery, but of healing.

What is your story? It isn’t over when the drywall goes back up, when you move your belongings back in, when things return to something you might be tempted to call “normal,” but nor has it only just begun. Perhaps, like me, some of you, or maybe all of you, already faced enormous difficulties getting your life to a certain place, and now that you’ve had the experience of finding yourselves in an uncertain place, it seems there is too much to get through. Maybe you have already heard or told the story that the difficulties are only now just beginning, that nothing will be the same, that one wrong move will mean the end of everything you have loved and built and tended — that there is almost nothing between you and annihilation. It is hard to hear or tell this story and not slide into a state of complete and utter despair. But I understand how stories work, and so I know that you can, in fact, choose the story you want to tell about yourself.

For the past year, I’ve been working to bring together a massive team of people to launch The Houston Flood Museum: a project that is meant to discover and collect these stories, all of them— as many as we can — about the storm, about the flood, about the city and its heroes and its flaws — to reflect on our collective history, to learn from it, to mourn what we have lost and to imagine how to move together into the future. For me, this is the broad purpose of telling our stories: to make sense of that which is nonsense, to make order from chaos, to make art from the messiness of life. I tell stories because I have discovered that my need to do so is urgent. If you also feel this need, I hope you’ll consider sharing yours with me. I’d love to hear your story, or to discover a new one, together.

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TEXAS MONTHLY profiles THE HOUSTON FLOOD MUSEUM in advance of its launch for the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey.

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“What will a Houston Flood Museum Look Like?” asks HOUSTONIA writer Morgan Kinney.