At the end of October, Bloomsbury India released “The Water Phoenix: A Memoir of Childhood Abuse, Healing and Forgiveness” by Rituparna Chatterjee. A native of India, Chatterjee is a writer who currently lives in Santa Clara with her husband and child.
Chatterjee’s book shares a number of experiences from her earlier years — the loss of her mother, her sexual assault at age six, several near-death experiences, which include a panther attack, sex education from nuns at her boarding school, her confrontation with someone who assaulted her, and how she learned to heal. Chatterjee dedicated her book to “each child who has been abused.”
“In India, a child is abused every 15 minutes,” said Chatterjee, who adds that these statistics probably underreport the actual numbers. “When you are a child who grows up being abused, you don’t know your identity…[The effects of abuse] show up in friendships, it shows up at work and in [the victims’] relationships with themselves.”
While juggling her responsibilities as a wife and mother, Chatterjee completed her memoir’s first draft in about five to six months.
“‘The Water Phoenix’ is a magical realism memoir,” Chatterjee said. “Magical realism has elements of fantasy, but they are happening in real life. The water phoenix was actually a peacock that I chased from my school to my house when I was a child. I try to live like a water phoenix, diving deep into the ocean of emotions within me, unafraid to feel every negative emotion and layer of trauma hiding there.”
In her book, Chatterjee explained that her journey toward healing began in Silicon Valley, where she has lived for the last 14 years. She added that she had never sought therapy.
“I already healed from my experiences before I wrote my book,” Chatterjee said. “The book celebrates the joys, wonders and enchantments of childhood and the horror and loneliness of it. It was one horror after another. Because I have healed from it, writing about it was not painful for me. For someone who has not healed, it might be a daunting experience to write about their trauma.”
“If you want to write memoirs or fiction, you have to be brave enough to connect with the entire spectrum of the human experience,” Chatterjee continued. “You have to be open-minded. Even if your character is a psychopath, you have to be empathetic.”
Although “The Water Phoenix” has been out for only a short time, Chatterjee has received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback.
“I am drowning in a tsunami of stories from other abuse survivors, many of whom are men,” Chatterjee said. “They’ve been abused by relatives and teachers, people who are supposed to be trusted. It’s heartbreaking to hear their stories and to see that they haven’t healed. I’m moved by the amount of people who have reached out and talked about how they’ve been transformed by my work, inspired to share their own stories and begin their own journeys towards healing.”
Visit www.sapnaonline.com, which ships orders internationally, to purchase “The Water Phoenix.”