Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley
by Carol Es
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Pub Date 06 Apr 2019 | Archive Date 27 Mar 2019
Desert Dog Books, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles
Six houses, five apartments, three motels, a Hollywood mansion, and a small vegetable farm. Moving 16 times before the age of nine is enough to screw with any kid’s head. Living with an unstable family, a mentally abusive mother, and enduring years of neglect and sexual molestation left Carol Es believing she was inherently bad. At 14, she decided to ditch a rootless, dysfunctional family circus, seeking something that might make her a better person.
She thought she found her answers in Scientology, but she thought wrong.
As a self-taught artist, writer, and drummer, Carol maintained an unbreakable bond with her passions as a means of survival. She exhibited her art and played music tirelessly in bands on Sunset Boulevard and the LA circuit. She toured the US and Canada, signed with Sony Music, but all the while, she’d been conditioned to hide and deny her own mental illness in order to stay true to the doctrine of L. Ron Hubbard—a man who claimed psychiatric treatment was an evil hoax.
In her book, Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley, Carol explains how it was even possible to be both brainwashed and live “normally” in the world of contemporary art and rock n’ roll.
After a tumultuous childhood and 20 years in the cult, Carol Es takes a huge stride out of fear and silence by sharing her true vulnerabilities and intense experiences. With gallows humor and a unique perspective, she invites readers into her confidence, laying bare her most raw and intimate revelations on her seemingly endless search for self-worth as a woman. In conversational prose, she manages to embrace the horrifically sad scenes of her past, her biggest embarrassments, and finds absurdities one can only laugh about through tears.
Illustrated with crude sketches throughout, Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley is a courageous, relatable story that will keep you turning pages to the very end.
Book Launch and Art Show (Artist's Reception/Signing)
Saturday, April 13th, 4:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Reading + Q&A Begins at 4:00 p.m. Sharp
Craig Krull Gallery, Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Ave. B3
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 9 members
The embroidered words ‘My Grace is sufficient for thee’ hang over my desk as I write this review. I’m not religious but I suppose that line resonates with me because it proclaims the transformative power of weakness which is really the axis upon which all great art revolves. From our pain, beauty flows.
In this absorbing memoir (I started in the bright, morning light and finished in darkness), Carol Es rather courageously articulates a catalogue of trauma and abuse that, paradoxically, empowers her not simply to survive but to nurture, to create, to love. Despite her demons (or, perhaps, emboldened by them), she escapes the suffocating cult-grip of Scientology while also forging an acclaimed career as an artist and now writer in the process. Yes, the narrative of family dysfunction, addiction, depression, etc can seem like tired ground in trendy confessional memoirs but there is a lot of meat to chew on here. Her exposé of Scientology’s grim ruthlessness and control is a story in itself (and a brave one given their reputation for revenge) but, within that, are searingly painful episodes of abuse, betrayal and illness and, within that, equally compelling moments of love, poignancy and humour. Within these narratives, still further tangents. Like life itself, these contrasting episodes grind and scrape like tectonic plates but that is what gives the book authenticity. Life is chaos; moments of grace crash into numbing despair and Es often writes like a 3 am phone call or a handbrake turn. Instability and potential freefall haunt every corner. Like Charles Bukowski’s ‘Ham on Rye’, this book had so many moments like half-remembered fragments of my own childhood. She talks of watching the fish in a hospital aquarium and thinking about death. I’m sure I’ve been there, too. I know the bedrooms, the lighting, the scents and sidewalks she described. Nothing here felt contrived. Many of her experiences felt like my own life and, in her pain, I felt oddly strengthened. Such is the power of fine art at its finest.
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Edited by Sid Holt for the American Society of Magazine Editors; introduction by Jeffrey Goldberg.