A review of Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small, edited by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter

Reviewed by Joanna Celeste

Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small
by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter (Editors)
Seal Press
Paperback: 264 pages, September 11, 2012, ISBN-13: 978-1580054164

In Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small, 27 women come together to share their truths through transformative accounts of their path into, and out of, shame. (Merriam Webster defines “shame” as “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.”)

While sometimes sympathetically painful to read (stories #8 and #22 cover child molestation; #4 has dogs run over) each story is ultimately worth it.

These courageous authors (who used their real names while publicly displaying their darkest secrets) empowered me to become unafraid when examining the shrouded moments of my life.

Shame comes in many forms but in the end it’s the same: we experience something that makes us unworthy of everybody else. We try to fix it, hide it, or compensate for it. These moments, or series of events, can be labeled “me” and we endeavor to become someone else to ease the pain.

Instead the shame becomes a “slumbering-with-one-eye-open” monster, eager to remind us that we are not worthy, that nothing we accomplish will ever be enough, that we cannot make up for what we are not, and for what it is impossible for us to become.

Many authors shared childhood moments, when their perception of life was limited by their experience, by what they were allowed to know, and the framework in which they could decipher that knowledge. It was enlightening to see how childhood impressions, unchanged by the passage of time, could affect someone many years later.

As children, we desire to be admired, to belong, to be loved. As adults, we seek to discover who we are as separate from that; to belong within ourselves, to love and cherish ourselves for who we are and not for who we wish we could grow up to be.

Most of these women are considered wildly successful by social standards; they illuminate our cultural misperception that becoming successful equals happiness. If ashamed, no quantity of admiration from others seems to counter-balance it.

Each author shared what they hoped readers “took away”. While I earmarked many quotes, these best describe my experience “dancing at the Shame Prom”:

“You are not the only one.” – Samantha Dunn

“… Every one of us is meant to be here….” – Hollye Dexter

“I hope that by sharing… we shed all that keeps us small, distant… I hope that… we give other human beings courage and hope and a place to call home….” – Amy Ferris

I was comforted, throughout this anthology, that life really does get better; not necessarily like the happily-ever-after of our fairy tales, but in the ways that truly matter.

By sharing their truths, these women transmit a beacon of light into our darkness, and our own truths, nestled within, rise to meet it. The authors embrace us as kin, male or female; without judgment of our pasts, they promise that we all are beautiful, worthwhile human beings.

About the reviewer: Joanna Celeste is an author, poet, editor, journalist, and official reviewer for Blogcritics, E & K Family Book Review and TRR (TheRomanceReview.com). She is also a Literary Associate for You Read It Here First (http://fromtheauthors.wordpress.com ) and enjoys interviewing authors. Visit her at http://www.joannaceleste.com.

Article first published as Book Review: Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small edited by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter on Blogcritics.