*How much hurt and pain can one person endure? In the case of Joyce Reed, Chicago businesswoman and single parent of two young boys, and the author of the book “Hurt Used To Live Here,” she seems to have endured two lifetimes of hurt and pain. Still, she perseveres and triumphs where many others would have just accepted defeat. This is a powerful story of redemption.
“Hurt Used To Live Here” is Reed’s story of her innocence being stolen from her at an early age, having initially been raped and impregnated by a close family member, then followed by other rapes and sexual molestations by others. Her first pregnancy was actually by this close family member, subsequently aborted due to her young age, and despite the fact that her mother was opposed to it due to her particular religion. The author reveals throughout this heartrending story and account of her life of the ridicule that she was subjected to, some of which brought about by her lifestyle and sexual persuasion. She is unflinching in her attitudes and discussion in this book about her sexual proclivity and sometimes aversion to men, possibly attributing this to the numerous rapes she endured. She is graphic and unrelenting in the telling of her story, perhaps therapeutic in the need to tell the story the way that she does. Yes, she does use some rather colorful and at times raunchy language in this book, but one could easily chalk that up to the harsh surroundings and environment of the mean streets of Chicago that she was brought up in.
The author speaks of an attempted suicide and the taking of her young sons down that path with her when things seemed to have gotten to the point of being more than she could endure, only to be stopped by divine intervention. She writes of many deaths in her family, but none that affected her more than the mysterious and unexplained death of her brother Michael. Reed talks painfully of being locked away by her mother at a facility on 26th and King Drive in Chicago, and stating: “How could she? How could you hear your child screaming and crying for you and all you do is walk away?” The author further states: “She did the same thing to my brother Michael. She locked him away in a mental hospital because she couldn’t deal with his real life issues.” It is clear from reading this book that the author faults her mother for a lot that happened in her life, but she reserves the harshest criticism and blame for her father.
Reed reveals in this book how she used men to get what she wanted or thought she needed, when her real interest was in women. She is unabashed in her desires and inclination towards women, although she admits that she would rather have a relationship with a man. Some of her most troublesome relationships written about in this book, outside of the rapes by men, where with women. Her revelation at a family meeting that she called to point out that she was actually bi-sexual, took a lot of strength on her part. I could actually feel the tension in this meeting as Reed describes it in her book.
Make no mistake about it – the author makes no attempt in this book to project herself as a Saint – on the contrary she admits to things she did and participated in that would make a lot of us blush or cover our faces in shame. That is the good thing about this book, as it allows the reader to journey through another person’s mind and experiences and without sugar-coating anything. Reed describes in vivid detail a knock-down drag-out and brutal fight with one of her ex-lovers, that basically sets the tone for this book and her life. She uses nick-names for her ex-lovers such as “Sexy Mama” that underscores the lifestyle and environment that she once lived in. She gives you a front row seat to a homosexual and bi-sexual lifestyle and attitude that will open your eyes wide!
“Hurt Used To Live Live” is actually a story within a story. It is also a story about the author’s best friend, Nicole Harris, who was falsely accused and convicted of murdering her son in Chicago, and sent to prison for more than eight years, only being released and vindicated just prior to the publication of this book. Reed actually dedicates a chapter of this book, “Friends & Haters,” to her dear friend Harris who she stood by every step of the way – always believing in her innocence. The Harris arrest in Chicago for the alleged murder of her 4-year-old son made headline news, as well did her subsequent exoneration after 8 years of imprisonment. It is revealing to note in this book about Reed’s friendship with Harris that she states that Harris never tried to sleep with her man, something of a character and true friendship assessment. At Harris’ release from prison all the major Chicago newspapers and TV stations were there, as it was a major story and event in this city that has had its share over the years, with Reed there by Harris’ side as news reporters interviewed Harris about her release. Reed actually chronicled some of the tragic details about the death of Harris’ son Jaquari in her book. Both Reed and Harris have survived the hurt that they encountered and have moved on to become stronger women, women that their surviving children can be proud of.
The author has adopted and adapted a phrase which states: “Never Judge A Book By Its Cover – First Open It And Read It.” Hurt Used To Live Here” is that book that you must open and read before judging this remarkable woman and her testament of survival, along with her faith in God. The gist of what Reed attempts to convey is readily apparent, and one can actually feel and sense the “Hurt that Used To Live Here,” in this deeply moving and soul searching testament to the human spirit that I highly recommend.
“Hurt Used To Live Here,” by Joyce Reed (www.iamURvoice.com, Palatine, Illinois, 2012, 186 pages.)
Dennis Moore is a writer and book reviewer for the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine. He is also the author of a book about Chicago politics; “The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago.” Mr. Moore can be contacted at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.