I've been thinking a lot about freedom lately. Perhaps it's a response to the presidential campaign, or it's because I've been watching AMC's TURN about the Revolutionary War on Netflix, but more than likely, it's due to reading both memoirs by Jaycee Dugard.
Not to be confused with the massive family of reality TV stars the Duggars, Dugard was kidnapped at age 11 while walking to the bus stop by a husband and wife, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, and held captive in their back yard for 18 years. She was finally discovered in 2009.
Dugard's first book, A Stolen Life, was published in 2012 and broke sales records for Simon & Schuster. It combines Dugard’ child-like voice with the unspeakable crimes committed against her by the Garridos, including the rape, abuse, intolerable isolation, and paralyzing fear that consumed her daily life in captivity. Dugard also describes giving birth to two children by her rapist: daughters, who she refers to only briefly, calling them gifts. She relied on her captors for her every need and was subjected to their every mood and whim. For Dugard, writing the book was cathartic, and it helped lift the shame she’d felt for so many years.
I tried several times to put down A Stolen Life. It’s hard being confronted with the atrocities some people are capable of inflicting on others, but I began to feel as though I was sharing the emotional burden with Dugard. Also, the Garridos do not deserve to have their heinous behavior go unnoticed. Dugard’s resilience trumps their cruelty throughout the book, and ultimately led to her survival. She writes, “I won’t say every day has been glorious and wonderful, but even on the bad days I can still say one thing— I am free.” Her words have stuck with me, and I hope they stay.
Dugard’s second memoir, Freedom: My Book of Firsts, just released on July 16. It details her path to recovery over the past six years of freedom, including being re-immersed into society. She shares her experiences with many of life’s joys and disappointments— experiences she only dreamed about from the Garridos’ back yard. Reuniting with her mother and sister, learning to drive, dealing with the sometimes aggressive press, walking her daughters to school—life from Dugard’s vantage point is fascinating. Gone are the scattered thoughts of A Stolen Life. Dugard’s writing conveys the wisdom of a 36-year-old woman who is healing, learning to accept herself, and “grabbing happiness in any form it might take.”