Tag: Kathryn Harrison

Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. Ortiz

Posted November 12, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. OrtizTitle: Excavation: A Memoir (Goodreads)
Author: Wendy C. Ortiz
Published: Future Tense Books, 2014
Pages: 242
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Wendy C. Ortiz was an only child to distant, alcoholic parents growing up in San Fernando Valley in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. She is an insecure and bookish girl with a passion for writing; this memoir is about her relationship with a teacher fifteen years her senior. A deep excavation into a relationship that nurtured Wendy’s writing but also left psychological scars. In a world where we take this victim/perpetrator relationship as a black and white issue, Excavation: A Memoir explores the grey area.

Wendy takes her journal entries from her teenage years, during this relationship and combines it with her memories. Excavation: A Memoir is a disturbing but fascinating look into a destructive teacher/student relationship. Excavation is a wonderful title for this memoir; the idea that this whole situation was buried deep in her own emotions and mind and now she must excavate to get it out. It gives you an idea of just how damaging the situation was for Wendy, even before starting the memoir.

The journal entries capture her teenage years perfectly, that whole feeling of being confused and unsure is something that just feels familiar. There was this constant swing between where she felt like she was in control but then a state confusion and uncertainty. Then there is sections called “Notes of Excavation” which is a reflection on the situation from where Wendy is now. Like an interesting footnote, it not only tells the story of her present day life but a reflection on the situation. There is a powerful and haunting chapter called “Why I didn’t tell” which goes through a list of reason for keeping the secret “I didn’t want to be average, I didn’t want it to end…”

Excavation: A Memoir is not just a memoir about the shocking moments of this relationship but rather exploring the grey area. This teacher essentially made Wendy a better writer and encouraged her in the arts. However he was also telling her not to write anything about their relationship down. This obviously didn’t happen and we are looking at this situation where teenage Wendy thinks she has this power but in reality the teacher is manipulating her.

Wendy C. Ortiz has a MA in Clinical Psychology and an MFA in Creative Writing, co-founder/curator of the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series as well as a contributor to places like The Olympian, Los Angeles Times and McSweeney’s. Excavation: A Memoir could be compared to works like Alissa Nutting’s Tampa or even The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison.

The memoir ends a little rough, it felt like she was just trying to rush something that needed more time. Maybe there is another memoir planned and she is just teasing the reader with what comes next. However the memoir was a trip into a dark hell but also a exploration into a messy relationship. I picked up this book to get a better understanding of abuse and while it isn’t a happy or easy book it is probably important to understand how this kind of situation can be. Thankfully the teacher is now a registered sex offender and Wendy C. Ortiz seems to be in a better place, but will these scars ever heal completely?