It Only Hurts When I Can't Run: One Girl's Story
by Gewanda J. Parker
MSI Press

"I remember seeing my mother with tears running down her cheeks, crack pipe in hand. I refused to leave the room, and the shame of her child watching her use drugs added to her shame."

Oma (the author’s name for the little girl she once was) wanted to love her mother Binta, a woman who could be generous, creative, and kind at times—but at other times, driven by her addiction, Binta's eyes became "narrowed and watery, displaying a look of meanness." From an early age, Oma tried to hide, then to run away, from the addictive patterns of the one person she should have been able to trust. The enraged, addicted Binta beat her with hands, a belt, even a belt buckle (the same belt used as part of the paraphernalia of her mother's heroin habit). Men in her mother's lives sexually abused Oma, starting when she was only five. Oma was shunted through numerous foster care situations. As she got older she grew better able to resist the negative forces in her life. She experienced a religious conversion that gave her strength.

Today Oma/Gewanda has a Master of Divinity degree and has founded a charity to protect marginalized children. Her writing style is honest, clear, and spare. Though her childhood experiences were chaotic and frightening—being taken away in strange cars by unknown people, being functionally kidnapped by her own family, being shamed by her poverty—she is able to convince us that she has genuinely forgiven her mother, considering her to have been more sinned against than sinning. And she reminds us that even among so-called good people there are addictive traits and behaviors. One of her childhood molesters, after all, was a much-admired preacher.

Both sermon and paean to the poor and neglected of the world, It Only Hurts When I Can't Run (planned a Part One of a series) is a woman's plea for innocent girls trapped in an evil environment, expressing the hope that her story "will touch the lives of millions."

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