By Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP
Let's All Hold Hands and Drop Dead: Three Generations One Story has an odd title.
It’s an amazing story. The author, Elaine J. Cooper, an internationally recognized group psychotherapist, tells the tale of her Russian ancestors who suffered during the pogroms of Russia, which she contrasts with life as the child of an immigrant in the United States, a land of peace and plenty.
She skillfully weaves the carefully typed memoirs of her father, who grew up in the era of anti-Semitic czarist Russia and the chaotic rise of the Bolshevik Revolution to come to the United States with her memories as a bright Jewish child growing up in East Los Angeles, trying to make sense of her constantly shifting feelings of elation and rage, pleasure and pain. A third strand is the ongoing story of a psychotherapy group, an assortment of people who are sifting through their thoughts, feelings and dreams to find meaning, belonging and satisfying personal relationships.
Ms. Cooper speaks of the “social unconscious,” the idea that buried memories of past generations live within us, and recognizes how she and her brothers were affected by the violence and heroism of the previous generation. As we become increasingly aware of the reality of intergenerational trauma, we look at this book as a living testament to how trauma threads its way through a family. In sharing her story, she offers tribute to the struggle and strength of her family and comes to understand herself and others.
As a clinical social worker, group psychotherapist and a facilitator of family constellations, the new therapy that addresses the healing intergenerational trauma, I highly recommend this book. The writing is engaging and the story is compelling. The author is a very good storyteller, and the book can be read more than once to discover different elements and perspectives within its depths.
Mental health professionals, historians, and anyone interested in intergenerational trauma will find this book valuable -- and maybe inspiration to write his or her own "ancestor story."
Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is an author, trainer and psychotherapist who promotes, practices and teaches experiential methods including psychodrama, Family and Systemic Constellations, mindfulness and Tarot imagery.
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