Allison Moorer’s new memoir Blood should be required reading for everyone. It not only tells Moorer’s powerful, and very personal story of her tumultuous childhood, but it also speaks volumes of the long lasting effects of childhood trauma. Allison will be in Houston for two special performances at Cactus Music and the Mucky Duck.
Blood was released this October, along with an equally beautiful album with the same title. It may be Moorer’s eleventh studio album, but it marks the first time the artist has addressed her parents' tragic ending so directly and in depth.
“In 1998 when my first album came out, this was still very fresh for me. I didn’t feel like I wanted to talk about it, I didn’t want it to be the focus of what I was doing. I wanted the focus to be my music,” says Moorer.
Moorer and her sister Shelby Lynne are not only both accomplished singer songwriters, but they are also both survivors of a hell no child should ever have to experience. After years of alcoholism and abuse, their father Vernon Franklin murdered their mother Laura Lynn and then took his own life, with both of their girls within earshot.
In Blood, Moorer takes readers and listeners down a path full of painful memories, endless questions, forgiveness and ultimately, the great power of love and resilience of the human spirit. Moorer explained how a 2010 interview with the late poet Dr. Maya Angelou inspired her to write the book.
She admits that Angelou asked her how she would explain her childhood to her own son John Henry and she realized, she did not have an answer. “It’s very much inspired by her asking me that question and very much inspired by my son and writing down our story, because he will never get to meet his grandparents. I wanted him to know that there was more to them than the way they died.”
While writing Blood, Moorer earned her master's in creative writing to better help her hone her skills. Blood is a page tuner. Though the subject matter is difficult to digest emotionally, Moorer’s writing allows the reader to glide through the pages, tissue in hand, and come out stronger on the other side.
Forgiveness is a concept that is difficult to achieve, many may write about, preach about it or try to navigate to rocky path towards it, but Moorer seems to have actually gotten to her destination, never downplaying the challenging road she took and continues to travel on.
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“I don’t feel like I can go through my life harboring anger and resentment about something that I have absolutely no ability to change so it’s either make peace with it and forgive, or carry it around and let it kill me, and I’m not willing to do that.”
“I want to be forgiving. I want to have compassion and empathy for a person who was very troubled, that was part of my reason for writing this book, so that I could get there. I can’t pass on my anger and my misunderstanding of the situation to my own child,” she adds.
Moorer has been met by critics who struggle to fathom her ability to forgive her father but she says she cannot deny the father daughter bond. No matter what decisions her father made, she knows that people are worth more than their poor choices in life.
Moorer has been searching for answers to explain her father’s behavior for decades and has consistently come up short with explanations as to what led him to become the man she knew. “I don’t feel like I have to have the answers anymore in order to forgive him. I think there were so many things going on in his mind that I, as a 14-year-old girl, did not know and wasn’t supposed to know.”
Surviving childhood trauma leaves lasting scars on the subconscious, often affecting every decision people go on to make as adults. It can be very difficult to break the cycles of abuse and negative self thinking and it can be very easy to continue with unhealthy patterns.
“One of the things that I would like to say about my experience is that, when children are told to deny what they see, what they hear and what they feel, I think it produces in them a real distrust of their own feelings. When they carry that out in their lives and they get out in the world, their instincts can be off because they've been told, ‘no, you’re wrong’.”
“I think choosing to stay stuck in your old patterns is the quickest and easiest way to cheat yourself out of a real life,” says Moorer.
She is quick to point out that though her sister shared her experience, she never intends to speak on her behalf. “She did tell me that because I had written this book, she was able to see her own experience and her own trauma in a way that she had not been able to do previously; so that’s reward times ten enough for me.”
Moorer knew it would take more than a song to address all of these moving parts in her history so she decided to write her memoir and an album. Blood the album starts with hauntingly beautiful, “Bad Weather”, a song which Moorer describes as the beginning of a descent into situational depression triggered by a memory. The album weaves through the stages and time frames of healing Moorer went through and continues to explore.
Blood also gave a home to a song written by her father, tellingly titled, "I'm the One to Blame". Shelby Lynn found it in his old briefcase many years ago and the sisters had been holding onto it, knowing it was a gem, but Allison decided it was time to set her father's song free.
She manages to be more vulnerable than ever in both her book and her album, an exercise in growth for someone who was taught to keep her guard up by her hard life lessons, but the universe seems to be sending her messages that she is on the right path as so many people have already reached out to her to tell them their own stories of survival.
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“If this book has a larger purpose, something larger than me just telling my story and being the witness for my immediate family, maybe it will encourage other people to speak their truth and to not be ashamed of what their childhood experience was.”
Moorer is currently on tour performing her nightly shows as a hybrid of readings and performances with guest narrators, but her Houston show will be one of a kind on this tour. She will be joined by friend, and fellow singer songwriter, Mary Gauthier for a song swap. Gauthier has been working with soldiers suffering from PTSD and helping them turn their lyrics into songs. She is also currently working on her own memoir.
“I'm excited about getting on the road and seeing everyone. Obviously this is a different project and I am just reminding myself every minute that putting myself in this vulnerable position is the right thing to do and it’s another exercise in trust.”
Allison Moorer will perform Friday, November 22 at Cactus Music, 2110 Portsmouth, 5 p.m. Free. And with Mary Gauthier at McGonigels Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. $45.