Autobiographical fiction serves not just as a form of expression allowing writers to confront and take back emotional territory damaged through trauma but also as a genre where readers are confronted having to make room and accept the reality of abuses. Fierce Truth, the new short story collection from Fran Sutton-Williams, takes readers into dark places like this with both the intent to exorcise trauma and provoke readers into realigning their vision.
These ten stories vary from a single page such as the first ‘I Will Miss School Today,’ a vignette from an abused child’s perspective, to several like the deeply unsettling ‘Charley & Reeva’ telling of a toxic family. Each story captures readers immediately sending them into a deeply emotional and fraught territory. These spaces are those written by a survivor of sexual assault meant to less to reclaim space and more to demand readers (especially those who’ve never encountered assault) confront the grim reality of the fact. Sutton-Williams makes it clear in her prologue “This was not an easy book to write and it will not be an easy book to read. I suggest having a support system in place–those who are capable of helping you bear whatever might be triggered.” Fierce Truth gives banal and harrowing stories of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Sutton-Williams describes her work here are coming out of thirty years of healing. It is a story collection uninterested in readers’ comfort rather finding release through grim confrontation. These stories demand readers see what is going on and not squirm away in search of healing tales that’ll make them feel good about themselves. This isn’t a collection of feel-good narratives–each is raw, open, and painful. But it is seeing this kind of hurt and wrestling with our reactions (and often inactions) to it allowing us as readers to actively change real-life situations. The kind of situations so many of these stories relate to us.
There is a balance to Fierce Truth differentiating it from a lot of similar fiction. Sutton-Williams does an excellent job of showing how all genders are harmed and harm. This is perhaps most clearly seen in the companion pieces ‘He’ and ‘She,’ the first a brutal depiction of a rape from the rapist point of view and the other a cold tale of weaponized sex. What these stories seem to suggest is the capacity for violence towards others, the cruel selfishness of sexual aggression is something in us all. Not the only way, but perhaps the most stark means of diffusing such violence is by narrating it, making something at once outside ourselves but of ourselves so we can examine and overcome it critically and emotionally.
Fran Sutton-Williams writes deftly; she is an experienced hand. Her invocations are compelling, and she has a fine gift of occupying the interior lives of not just her protagonists but her villains. Readers will find Fierce Truth lives up to its title and once we emerge from it, we can’t help but be more sensitive, astute, and steeled against such cruelties.
About the Author
Fran received her B.A. in Theater and Communications at Marymount Manhattan College in New York. After moving to Los Angeles, she studied acting for three years with Alexandra Morgan and Judy Kerr, who were trained by Joan Darling. Fran held a variety of jobs until she began working as an acting coach with Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, which she did for 10 years before retiring. Fran has returned to coaching, not just actors, but those who want to “act” in their lives and achieve a specific goal.