Butterfly Tears: Stories of Entrapment to Empowerment is a collection of life story essays written by clients and graduates of Pathways to Independence, an intensive program that helps young women move from entrapment (“Abuse. Assault. Abandonment. Addiction”) to empowerment (“Hope. Freedom. Success. Independence.”) through therapy and healthcare, mentorship, education, and general support of the organization’s clientele.
The anthology, conceived by Pathways founder Dave Bishop and edited by Wil Drouin and Jennifer Thomas, is split into three parts. The first 150 or so pages include six essays by current clients and recent graduates of the program. The middle section, roughly 100 pages, follows three women’s stories of continued success after completing the program. Finally, the last 60 pages focuses on Bishop’s story, the Pathways to Independence Foundation, and the brief profiles of many of the organization’s generous contributors and volunteer professionals. At the end of the anthology there is information provided about how to support Pathways to Independence and help more young women in need.
Creative nonfiction is a strange animal. It is, in some ways, more difficult to write than fiction. (Of course, fiction presents its own challenges.) Creative nonfiction must be compelling, have interesting plot and characters, and also be true. In nonfiction, the bad guys may win, the good guys may die, and the story may or may not have a dénouement. Still, the ever-present human desire is what moves us: for good to triumph over evil, for the underdog to end up on top, and for the fallen to be redeemed.
The stories presented in Butterfly Tears are at the same time horrific and heartwarming. I asked myself more than once, “How could a parent neglect or abuse their child so completely?” while simultaneously cheering for each story’s author when she overcame (or began to overcome) her circumstances and self-limiting beliefs. It’s encouraging and inspiring to read about young women escaping their damaging environments, taking responsibility for their own decisions and actions, and surpassing their expectations for themselves.
I appreciate that Bishop and the collection’s editors put their beliefs into practice; each of the stories is told by the women who have themselves undergone trauma and recovery, giving them a voice instead of telling their stories for them. In terms of the writing itself, however, the stories are very “this happened and then this happened and then I was in big trouble” and so forth. I realize that the authors all have their own lives and that those lives are obviously very interesting, if not difficult and varied, but there was a lot of telling and not as much showing as I’d’ve liked. Any one small piece of these women’s stories could’ve made a great piece of creative nonfiction if it were rewritten and fleshed out, but it felt to me like the editors asked the authors to do too much with too little space.
Though Butterfly Tears isn’t exactly in-depth, polished prose, this anthology is recommended reading if you want to learn more about Pathways to Independence.
Hippocampus Rating: 3/5
Who would enjoy this book? Who would enjoy this book? People who root for the underdog, who like happy endings, and/or who need encouragement in their own lives.
V.E. Duncan is an emerging writer hailing from the Los Angeles area. She holds a master of fine arts in creative writing and has published her poetry and prose in several small literary journals. V.E. writes movie, book, and anime reviews and personal thoughts at Duncan Heights. She’s been involved in LGBT rights and women’s rights activism since high school. Her passions include anime and Japanese culture, psychology, and etymology, and she is currently working on her first memoir. She has a cantankerous cat named Cleopatra.
On staff since 2011
V.E. has also served as a conference volunteer.