Traumata (Meera Atkinson, UQP)
Trauma and the events that provoke it involve a complex web of personal experience, history and society, but most books on the topic seem to sit squarely in either the deeply personal, the epigenetic or the sociological. Meera Atkinson’s Traumata combines all three. It is at once a powerful memoir and a philosophical treatise, defining trauma as something ‘chronic, commonplace, sometimes dramatic and often tedious in its stranglehold of repetitions, daily struggles, and predictable and unpredictable outcomes’. Where this book truly strikes new ground is in its exploration of ‘traumachy’—the societal trauma effected by patriarchal structures—and Atkinson sensitively explores her own experience of sexual violence and the documented cases of other survivors through this lens. This is a humane, thought-provoking and heartbreaking addition to our understanding of individual and collective suffering. It effortlessly combines unflinching memoir with cultural commentary, literary allusions and exhaustive research. Readers with a sensitivity to descriptions of sexual violence should approach Traumata with caution, but this is a highly recommended book for those who want to step beyond current hot takes towards a truly deep understanding of the concerns raised by the #MeToo movement.
Melissa Cranenburgh is a Melbourne-based writer, editor, broadcaster and writing teacher