Book 24: How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel

I should probably mention that i should have read this book last year. It was assigned reading for my Playwriting class, but wasn’t one that I read when I was supposed to. I can’t recall clearly whether this was because i ordered books too late or because I didn’t make the proper time to read it, but in all honesty play reading and response was a very small portion of our grade, so I didn’t worry about missing a few of them too much.

TW Pedophilia, molestation.

I decided to keep this play for one reason; I was present during the in-class discussion and knew that the subject matter interested me. I wanted to get to know Li’l Bit’s character.

It’s a five actor play; two main characters, Li’l Bit and Peck, and a three person Greek chorus who play many a role over the course of the work. I’ll give a little background here: Li’l Bit is Peck’s niece by marriage, he’s known her since she was born, and he’s been molesting her since she was 11.

Peck is in short, a predator. He took playboy-esque photos of his 13 year old niece. He got her hammered at 17 and tried to talk consent. He is a bad bad man. He’s also teaching her how to drive.

Li’l Bit is spunkier than hell. She’s a victim of Peck’s abuse, but she’s not your typical victim. As someone who didn’t fit the typical victim mold, I deeply appreciate that.

Interesting character side note: Grandmother is a woman who was married off at 14, and one who has never had an orgasm. These two bits of information, combined with the fact that her husband is constantly wanting sex, are quite sad.

Li’l Bit’s mother made a grave error in what she told her daughter on page 56. It’s also worth note that her intuition was exact.

A note on victim blaming: If you have not been molested, you do not have an emic perspective. You will never fully understand what a victim goes through. Logic does not apply when something heinous happens, and it often doesn’t find its way into a victim’s life until well past the event(s). Make no mistake, Li’l Bit is in no way responsible for the abuse that she lived through. She is not an adult, however, and was not capable of providing consent through the entire ordeal. This blog is not a place in which I will entertain any ideas to the contrary; victim blaming and ‘consent’ from children will not be pulled into question here, I do not welcome those toxic ideologies.  

~~~

I certainly count plays as books, and though it was a quick read, I think that it was well worth reading. I would recommend it to anyone interested in drama, and think that it’s a good source for monologues. I especially enjoy the drunken mother monologue on page 20. I also quite enjoy Aunt Mary’s dialogue about Peck, which unfortunately includes the most repugnant form of victim blaming there is (p. 44-450. The dialogue is also natural, and rather interesting at the same time.

One of my favorite stylistic elements of the play is the insertion of driving lessons/facts interspersed at random or in order to break up scenes. I thoroughly enjoy the “You and the Reverse Gear” flashbacks.

This play does require music permissions and photo access; my best guess would be that you’d need access to a projector or large screen of some sort for certain scenes, but it isn’t over the top with casting, as I mentioned before. As someone who has just the tiniest bit of knowledge about play writing, I can say that that’s about mid-line accessible from what I’ve learned.

Of course molestation (any sex crime, really) is a feminist issue, and one that is unfortunately close to my heart. I appreciated the portrayal that Vogel gives us, because it’s an honest one. Child molesters aren’t always the creepy men staring at our kid down the cereal aisle, more often than not, they’re family or friends. They’re Uncle Peck’s who teach your children how to drive. They’re ‘the only one she listens to when she’s like this,’ and they’re insidious. Vogel shows us that molesters are human beings that we might never notice having an evil streak in them, and that is so incredibly important.

How I Learned to Drive Publisher: Dramatists Play Service Inc; Revised edition

I give this play a 10/10.

A few resources:
RAINN
Rape & Sexual Abuse Survivor Message Board, Support Forums …
Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse | RAINN | Rape, Abuse …

Happy reading,
Scarlett

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