Sonia Kennedy-Brown tells her audience that when she was born, her mother cried. Her mother knew what a neighboring brother and sister had experienced growing up as persons with albinism. Two years after Sonia’s birth another Kennedy child, a son, was born with albinism. Their mother screamed. She had lived through her own daughter’s early experience.
In Silent Tears: Growing up Albino, Kennedy-Brown recounts her childhood, teenage years, and adulthood as one of the world’s half million or so persons with albinism, and one of the billion (15 percent of the world’s people) with a disability.
A girl with albinism in Jamaica is not killed or dismembered, as persons with albinism in some other countries often are. But the Jamaican girl with albinism confronts circumstances others in her community do not. She endures such challenges as bumps or sores, even skin cancer, and poor vision. Then there are the emotional questions that plague her in the daytime and explain the silent tears falling on her pillow at night.
How will schoolmates treat her? Will they play with her? Will she have dates during and after her college years? Will the new teacher understand that her albinism makes it difficult for her to see the blackboard? Or will he also think she’s cheating because she seeks help from a classmate? Does God love her? Does He really?
I was among the first to read Silent Tears when the book was still a manuscript. Although I wanted to, and did, become the editor, I wrote to the author: “Honesty requires that I say your book will be a great book, with or without me.”
Eventually I learned that because her story is so personal, the author originally intended to be much more selective about its content, and to share the text only with family members. But she eventually morphed into a true writer, determined to tell her entire story to the whole world.
This submission to candor and vulnerability is what makes Silent Tears a truly powerful read. This is why one who reviewed the manuscript warned readers to approach Silent Tears “not as a fiction or romance book but as the authentic experience of someone who is convinced that other hurting people may regain courage as they read it.” In other words, it was almost too real to be true.
I have two warnings for readers: First, don’t be surprised if, like other readers before, you stay up late into the night because you can’t put the book down. Second, don’t be embarrassed if, like the author and other readers, you shed silent tears of your own.
As a struggling young woman, Samantha Nelson sought counsel from her pastor. He raped her.
Many such stories would have ended here—literally through suicide, or figuratively through the numbing effect of addictions and escapes promising emotional amnesia. But Nelson instead experienced healing, then joined forces with her husband, Steve, to build a ministry for victims of clergy sexual misconduct (CSM) called The Hope of Survivors(THOS). THOS reaches across denominations and demographics to provide a unique but desperately needed service to a greatly underserved population.
The book Reaching the Hurting flowed out of Samantha’s experience of countless hours of counseling victims, coaching them along to become survivors and thrivers.
I’ve met the thrivers—the pretty, engaging woman who shows up at conferences to help run the THOS booth, and the man who read Nelson’s book with hunger after a lifetime of abuse by his church-leader father. These and scores more have understood and applied the simple counsel in her book and, like her, have received help to recover from unthinkable trauma.
Nelson wields a capable pen as she tackles the difficult questions surrounding abuse. How does one determine responsibility if abuse between adults occurs? Where is God when abuse occurs? Needless to say, we don’t often chat about these things around the potluck table; they’re typically left to lurk in the swamp of hush-hush church secrets. But Samantha dredges them up one by one, defines and describes them frankly, and ends each chapter with an upward-and forward-focused Bible study.
We need more of what this book offers, and of the honesty and clarity Samantha Nelson brings to this issue.