There are times where I feel I can connect to the narrator in a memoir more than I can with the majority of human beings. It’s in these moments when someone becomes incredibly open and personal where I feel most alive, that I’m living with a purpose. When I read a book (usually memoir) that has this deep vulnerability, that trusts me as a reader to take in his/her story, it’s exhilarating.
In Wendy C. Ortiz’s Excavation, she tells her story of growing up in the 80s in Los Angeles. In her middle school, she meets a new English teacher, Mr. Ivers, who takes a liking to Ortiz. Ortiz is only 13 when she develops an attachment to her 28-year-old teacher, and the relationship lasts into adulthood.
At an early age, Ortiz loved writing. Mr. Ivers didn’t seem to notice Ortiz until he had assigned a short writing assignment and became captivated by her story, which he had her read aloud to the class. With Mr. Ivers’ admiration of her writing talent and his attraction to her sexually, it becomes problematic for Ortiz to know whether she wrote because she wanted to or whether she did it to please her teacher/mentor. While there is gray area there, I’m glad she utilized her talent of writing to tell her side of the story, a narrative of a young girl who falls in love.
It’s so brave to come out and share one’s experience with a situation that we see splashed across newspapers as salacious journalism. The teacher-student seduction is a topic that comes up so much, and for Ortiz, it was at a time before she knew it could be considered “wrong.” In her memoir, we see how she was an adolescent wanting love and attention. When she narrates Ivers’ actions, we understand why she doesn’t leave him. She’s young and wanting to be worthy of a deeper kind of love.
This is an amazing memoir that has pauses where the narrative turns to excavating the past like an archeologist. I loved the sporadic structural changes and how it enhanced the narrator looking back at one of the formative relationships in her teenage years.