Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rita Zoey Chin's "Let the Tornado Come"

Rita Zoey Chin was born into a world that roared: a Queens apartment near Kennedy Airport, where planes were a constant storm that rattled the walls and the knickknacks on tables and the nerves of those nearby. But a move to Maryland four years later changed everything: it was there that Rita saw horses for the first time and discovered the most primal source of her wonder embodied in their movement across the field. She now lives in Boston, where she teaches memoir classes for Grub Street, mentors troubled teenage girls, and rides her mischievous horse.

Chin applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new memoir, Let the Tornado Come, and reported the following:
This is a fun test! One of the three intertwined narratives of my book focuses on my struggle with panic attacks, which came on suddenly and quickly became debilitating, and page 99 finds me at one of my lowest moments: afraid of something I never imagined I could be afraid of. Because it’s so absurd, the moment ends up being not only completely demoralizing, but also kind of funny, and I think that speaks to the overall nature of my book: to be able to find, in even the darkest moments, the attendant moments of light and humor, and also those rare moments of transcendence and epiphany—when we come to see ourselves and the world from a new vantage point and are changed in the process.

Page 99 also touches on the relationship I had as a child with my aunt, who suffered from schizophrenia. One of the great things about children is that they can see beyond what so many adults see, and with my aunt, I didn’t see her mental illness as much as I saw her spirit. I had fun with her, dancing and listening to her sing, and I loved her. And again, I think that love speaks to the larger themes of love in my book: the complexities of love, its redemptive powers, and its ability to help us heal. And that is most fully realized in my relationship with my horse, Claret, who had serious panic problems of his own. His fears ultimately made him defensive, which caused virtually everyone who knew him to deem him dangerous and give up on him. But I didn’t, and instead we formed a bond that in the end taught us both how to trust and how to be brave. For me, it’s the ultimate love story.
Visit Rita Zoey Chin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue