On a friend’s recommendation I picked up If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus. It’s a disturbing read–the kind you can’t put down. It’s like driving by an accident scene.
The accident scene here is domestic violence. Janine Latus chronicles the consequences of bad choices in men made by herself and her sister. One ends in death.
Latus is writer enough to keep you at her side even as you wonder at her blindness to the danger she’s in. The sister’s tragic story creeps in beside Janine’s candid description of her own victimization– “all jazz hands and shit” to cop a phrase from fearless, peerless writer April Manning. It’s chilling at the same time it makes you boil about the central obvious jazz-hands question WHY DO SO MANY MEN THINK THEY CAN TREAT WOMEN LIKE SHIT?
What’s weird about this book–about Latus as she depicts herself–is that she’s both a writer and a superficial materialist. The book is basically a story of what she gives up in order to gain beauty and wealth. I think of writers as people who are concerned with depth–what goes on under the surface, the Wisdom thing, the stuff that matters more than beauty or wealth.
It’s hard for me to believe someone who writes as well as Latus does can be so unwise. That’s what kept me turning pages, feeling obliquely guilty, like this is some kind of porn. It is, in a way, in that it depicts women as objects used by males for their own purposes, mostly sadistic. Latus writes scene after horrifying scene in remarkably honest, clear, prose. Each scene takes you deeper into the logic these two women use to keep themselves from seeing the jazz-hands waving all around them, blind to everything but the male gods they serve.
Some reviews fault Latus for telling her own story rather than that of her murdered sister. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with Latus digging into her memories to write a book that’s a call for change. But it’s not a good sign that the website where she asks you to donate to her campaign against domestic violence is a dead link.
I’m not going to say you should or shouldn’t read this disturbing book. I will say… take the next step. Wave your jazz hands and yell bloody murder whenever someone tries to use or to justify violence against women.