Photo by Nico Tucci Courtesy

Photo by Nico Tucci

Richard Blanco read a beautiful poem at President Obama’s second inauguration. I listened, entranced by his words. I knew he was Cuban American. I did not know he was gay.

My sister, Lynda Malterstein, sent me an article he wrote for the Huffington Post. In it he speaks eloquently about the verbal abuse he suffered from his grandmother and how it made him the kind of writer he is today. He said he would still be a poet but perhaps a different kind of poet. These are the words in the article that stood out for me:

“Becoming withdrawn and introverted, I grew to become an observer of the world, instead of a participant. In order to survive emotionally I learned to read my environment very carefully and then craft appropriate responses that would (hopefully) prevent abuse and ridicule from my grandmother. …I am still that quiet, repressed boy whenever I am in a room full of people, trying to be as invisible as possible…

“… I’ve come to understand why writing and me became such a great fit. It allowed me to participate in the world, to feel alive, while remaining an invulnerable observer, safe in my room, at my desk, in my imagination where no one, especially my grandmother, could hurt me.

That rejection informs who we are, who we become and has an impact on our lives often beyond what we are aware of. It impacts our relationships in ways we sometimes don’t see. It is why I am so passionate about filling in some of those gaps, giving the love of a mother to those who no longer have that in their lives.

Learn more about Susan.

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