Friday, May 11, 2012

Danila Botha : Got No Secrets

A few days ago, I finished reading the book Got No Secrets by author Danila Botha. This first person short story collection took me down the path of 12 young women struggling with drug addition, eating disorders, self harm, rape, and abuse.

Like a cutter slicing their skin gently with a razor till the blade becomes slippery and thick with blood, Botha’s words cut to the bone with precision. Artistic merit few possess. She brings issues of pain buried in the character’s innermost-self, rushing to the surface in such a way the reader can almost feel the first slice of skin stinging slightly with sweat. Yet, at the same time helping the reader understand the desperation of the self harm, self loathing addict, wanting so badly to feel anything in the life that surrounds them.

The sour smell of death lingers on Botha’s words in stories like, A Tiny Thud. As I read, I remember the loss of loved ones to overdoses. Living with these memories is something you never escape. But finding a friend half dead, reaching out to you, mumbling for help in a scrambled language of syllables and word-parts is a living nightmare. A memory you learn to cope with or at least bury until the same haunting sounds wake you in the night.

Botha’s stories, Don’t Talk Junk, and Smacked had a feeling of William S. Burroughs meets Go Ask Alice. I enjoyed her use of Afrikaans in Smacked quite a bit as well. It added to her unique style of writing.

Heroin Heights pulled me in and held me without mercy. Its depth and undertones of pained emotion were something that could be felt in the words Botha laid down.

But the one story that stood out, the real punch in the gut for me was, Just, Quietly, Do it. As I read, I remembered an old friend from 8th grade who had a monster for a father. One day he started in on her. One thing led to another and when she was trying to flee out of the front door, he grabbed her arm, held it in the doorway, then slammed the door shut on it. She said her hand dangled there like an old glove from her broken arm. I still remember the bright red cast that dressed her arm and the fear that lined her eyes as she told me.

A few days later she said her and her mother were leaving in the middle of the night once her father fell asleep. She asked if I could go to her locker the next day and retrieve her books and return them to the office. I said, yes and hugged her goodbye.

That night, I lay in bed, tears streaming down my face, wishing I could have somehow changed her life. I looked out the window in my room, and felt compete sadness as I gazed into the darkness. I knew she was just a few houses away; waiting for her father to get drunk and pass out so her mother and she could make their escape. It was one of the longest nights of my life. This story brought all of it back to me like it just happened yesterday.

The last story I would like to touch on is, My So-Called Date. Reading it was like being run over by a train several times. The bravery alone it took to put these words to paper and to write about the atrocities of rape, takes guts. Botha stares fearlessly into this topic without cringing. Talking about subjects like these is something very difficult to do, much less writing about them for the whole world to read and critique. Danila does this, time, after time, after time. Her fearless writing style makes this book an enjoyable read.

Danila Botha : Got No Secrets

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