My mum, Felicity Davis, recently re-released her debut book, Guard a Silver Sixpence, as Sins of the Family. As I attended the book’s launch last weekend, I realised that Sins of the Family is a story about hope, chronicling one woman’s fight to forge a brighter future for both herself and her family.
My life is far from dim; like any other professional 20-something, I’m always busy. Between clacking away on my keyboard at work, hitting chic urban night spots such as The Alchemist and waging a constant war to slim down and tone up, I barely have time to stop and think these days.
So when mum told me about the launch, I’m embarrassed to say that I saw it as nothing more than yet another obligation, overloading my already stacked schedule. But as I was writing my last blog post, ‘Revealing The Sins Of My Family,’ a week ago, I realised that this launch was so much more than another obligation, to be fitted in between clocking off and drinking up. It provided us with a chance to celebrate my mother’s commercial success, so off to the launch I went quite happily.
Stacking the odds
The launch, which was held in a quaint village pub, featured speeches and artistic performances. My mum took the floor first, starting by thanking all of us for being there throughout the process of compiling Sins of the Family, before going on to shed some historical and personal context on the re-edited Guard a Silver Sixpence. The highlight of my mum’s speech was, in my opinion, when she read the Sergeant’s report which detailed my great, great grandmother Emily Swan’s murderous crime, which I was soon to learn reverberated throughout my wider family across the generations.
What struck me about the Sergeant’s report, was that it smacked of everyday, turn-of-the-century sexism. As a woman living in the aftermath of Queen Victoria’s passing, the odds were stacked against Emily Swann before the Sergeant ever heard her name. The pure prejudice that leaked from every letter reminded me that women still have it so much harder than men in today’s fast-paced, digitally-fuelled society, which is why I believe that misogyny should be classed as a hate crime.
Raw statistics show that women continue to face serious discrimination throughout many facets of everyday life, from employment to political representation. But as mum continued her speech, I soon realised that the odds that are stacked against women had shortened considerably by the onset of the 21st Century. Even at the start of the 20th Century, women were already daring to hope that they could usher in change, setting the stage for their daughters and grand daughters, women like my mother, to build successful careers.
Exploring the parallels
After my mum finished, her long-lost cousin Pamela rose to speak. I’d only met Pamela a scant hour before, so I have to admit that I was quite surprised to learn that her story somewhat paralleled Felicity’s. After experiencing a difficult childhood, which was characterised by the same secrecy that shaped my mum’s formative years, Pamela went on to build a distinguished career in the NHS, illustrating that in my family, the desire for a better life has always burned so very strongly.
Once Pamela sat down Alison R. Russell, the author of Are You Chasing Rainbows, a book which asks why adults sometimes act like children, started speaking. Russell used extracts from Guard a Silver Sixpence to illustrate the points in her work and suddenly, the parallels between mum’s life and Pamela’s were thrown into even starker relief. Overcoming hardship, Alison’s speech made clear, can be painful and ugly but with hope, you come out of this process ready to take on the world.
Over the rainbow
Mum asked a musician called Jess to close the launch with a performance of several songs. ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow,’ the Wizard of Oz song that my mum’s complex grandmother Elsie used to sing her to sleep with, was undoubtedly the highlight. As I listened to Jess’ smooth voice soar over the melodic strains of her acoustic guitar, I realised why Sins of the Family is a story of hope. If you ever experience hardship, you have to have hope as without it, you will never make it through the cloudy skies and over the rainbow, to a place where the skies are oh so blue.