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Sex Birth Trauma with Kimberly Ann Johnson

Nov 4, 2021

In this episode, Kimberly and Gina discuss Gina’s latest book, a memoir titled Blow Your House Down. Gina shares the emotions she experienced while writing a book that explores her experiences of caregiving to her parents, becoming a mother to three children, having an extra-marital affair, surviving breast cancer, and more. In this conversation, Kimberly and Gina unpack how these common stories are unfavorably received in society but also how our painful stories offer a sense of community and understanding. They also discuss various common experiences of women that are culturally taboo such as anger, eroticism, illness, and affairs and the importance of sharing our stories.



Gina Frangello recently released her first memoir Burn Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism and Treason to critical acclaim after years of fiction- Every Kind of Wanting, A Life in Men, Slut Lullabies, and My Sister's Continent-- short fiction, essays, book reviews, and journalism have been published in Ploughshares, The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, HuffPost, Fence, Five Chapters, Prairie Schooner, Chicago Reader, and many other publications. She recently founded Circe Consulting, teaches editing and writing, and lives with her family in the Chicago area.


What She Shares:

--Divorce, death of parents, cancer diagnosis, extra-marital affair

--Writing as both re-traumatizing and healing

--Women’s anger as culturally taboo 

--Themes of marriage, motherhood, caretaking, and illness

--Stories of eroticism for all women not just young 


What You’ll Hear:

--Describes “The Story of A”

--Leaving marriage, father died, diagnosed with breast cancer, having an extra-marital affair

--Discusses different literary techniques used to tell life’s story

--Describes giving herself permission to be vulnerable in memoir

--Complexity of being both victim and having agency

--Author’s choice of only including family members as stories intersect with hers

--Discusses experience of writing about hardest moments in her life

--Trained as a therapist

--Experienced catharsis and emotional impact after readers’ feedback about memoir

--The “I” as a lens that opens out to more than just writer’s story

--Book as hybrid of memoir and cultural criticism

--Historical look at condition of women in a larger sense

--Motherhood and sexuality

--Women demonized for anger throughout history

--Focus on full range of emotions (anger, fear, compassion, love, desire, etc.)

--Anger as a viable emotion part of human experience

--Anger overly normalized in men and overly demonized in women

--Moving beyond reductive casualties or binaries of good/bad

--Reality is more complicated than cultural systems accept

--Our choices are often driven by more than just good/bad and are complex

--Discusses experience in affair, divorce, and marrying again

--Describes story wouldn’t have been different if she did not marry man who had an affair with

--Pushes back against critiques of story as reinforcing heteronormative marraige norms, redemption after an affair

--Resists a “clean reduction of a woman” amidst messiness of life

--Different possible outcomes at different stages of her story

--Resists fairytale-esque assumptions about her life

--Discusses care-taking of mentally ill parent, being a partner to someone with mental health issues, growing up in poverty and around violence, a woman’s experience with medical industrial complex

--Overlaps of being a woman, mother, wife, lover, daughter, friend, etc.

--Explosion of acceptability of writing sexuality by younger women in literary world

--Older women not as acceptable to discuss sexuality or bodies of women who are mothers

--Importance of including eroticism of older women, disabled women, mothers, etc.

--Fetishization of younger women’s sexuality and consequences



IG: @ginafrangello