Goldie Taylor, THE LOVE YOU SAVE: A Memoir

Goldie Taylor, THE LOVE YOU SAVE: A Memoir

Zibby interviews acclaimed journalist and human rights activist Goldie Taylor about her harrowing and profoundly moving new memoir The Love You Save, in which she shares the unimaginable cruelties she faced as a child and the books that ultimately saved her. Goldie shares some of those heartbreaking, traumatic moments, admitting they were painful to revisit but gave her immense compassion for her younger self. Goldie also talks about finding solace and hope in books, overcoming her shame, and ultimately creating a life she is proud of. Finally, she talks about her wonderful children and what it was like to share her story with them.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Goldie. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss The Love You Save: A Memoir.

Goldie Taylor: Thank you so much, Zibby, for having me. This is terrific.

Zibby: It’s such an honor to talk to you. Oh, my gosh, your memoir was just so open and raw and vulnerable. It was beautiful, really beautiful.

Goldie: Thank you. Thank you for that. It’s been quite a road, as you can imagine, writing a memoir such as this and then working through present-day issues with family. It has been a little murky to navigate emotionally, but I think all in all, probably one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Zibby: Take listeners through what this book is really about. Also, I’m curious, why did you write it now? What made you ready to face all of the murkiness that you probably thought would lay ahead? Why share your story at all?

Goldie: What I think is there comes a time — everyone comes from someplace. Everybody has a story. Everybody has a piece of brokenness somewhere if they’ve lived long enough. Going back now was a time for me to become the witness for myself that I didn’t have coming up. I didn’t see a reflection of myself in family, in the community surrounding me because all of these things, all of this trauma had happened in secret. It wasn’t talked about. It wasn’t dealt with and thus wasn’t reflected back to me that something happened to you. Something very bad is wrong. I had to go and bear my own witness to be the grown-up that I would’ve wanted to have had when I was a kid and to tell the story from that perspective. Along the way, I have to tell you that there were pages when I just had to stop myself and take a breath.

Zibby: I bet.

Goldie: There were days when I simply could not get out of bed. I wanted, though, just to keep going. The more I went back, the more I remembered and was able to sort of set those bones into place. By the time it was over, by the time I finished that first draft for the publisher, I took a huge sigh of relief that it had been laid down really exactly as I experienced it.

Zibby: Looking back on it now having gotten it all down and out, do you look back with any sort of — forgiveness is the wrong thing. There’s nothing to forgive. Compassion, that’s the right word. Do you feel compassion and a different view of your younger self now that you’re a grown-up essentially looking back and thinking about what — does the change in perspective change the narrative for you at all or how you feel about it?

Goldie: I think it really does. I say that when I was a little girl, I was just an angry child. You could smell the madness coming off my bones, really. Going back now seeing myself as an eleven-year-old girl attacked in my neighborhood and then revictimized by an older cousin, the casual cruelty of my Aunt Geraldine, the disconnection I felt with my mother and sister, and how I sort of took refuge under my Grandma Alice’s skirt, when I look back at all of that now, I see and feel not only a level of compassion for myself, and even, yeah, forgiveness for myself because I thought I was dirty — I thought I was small and insignificant and mattered to nobody. I thought at one point that I belonged to nobody and to nothing and nowhere specifically.

Zibby: It’s so heartbreaking.

Goldie: To look back now and see and hear the traumas that my aunt and mother endured, older cousins endured, to understand really where they were coming from then, what I know now more than ever before is that my mother gave me every single thing she ever had to give. If she didn’t give it, it’s because she didn’t have it to give. I have a severe level of compassion for the woman that she had to be, but also for that of my aunt who, early on in this book, doesn’t come off very well or very loving. If you knew her the way that I did until she passed away just a couple of years ago, you would know that she was a woman who loved hard and that if you were hers, she would never let you go, never ever let you go, and that she would spend the full of her days doing her darndest to keep you safe and from harm. For her and for the others in my family, it wasn’t about teaching children how to thrive because that was never the question. The question was, would they survive? These were people from the country who only believed in making sure that their children lived to see the next day. It was that basic for them.

Zibby: Yet here you are today with this hugely amazing career. Thriving is an understatement. You came from the most awful situations. There was this one passage. I don’t know if I could read it. This may be triggering in terms of sexual abuse, but if I could just read this one paragraph. “By the summer of ’81, the warring in my head was near constant. I had sharp memories about the day I was raped, and at times, I awoke screaming in the dark. I was afraid to go outside, went days without bathing, and rarely ate. My tangled, unwashed hair fell out in clumps. I don’t remember crying or even talking much. I mostly kept it to myself. It was safer that way, I thought. I was scared that somebody might touch me.” It is heartbreaking, Goldie. My gosh.

Goldie: We lived in a house full of people in my Aunt Geraldine’s house: my aunt, my uncle, my grandmother, her children who were in their late teens by then, and all of these grandchildren of my aunts and all of these cousins and such. There was a gaggle of people in this house, and so there’s really no place to be alone. It was hard to go through a day where you didn’t brush up against somebody because the house was just so crowded, and so I took to books. My aunt had a stairwell that went upwards and cut to the left. At that cut, there’s a landing. It’s covered in red plush carpet, which she made us sweep and vacuum every day. I would grab a book and sit in that cut, sit in that landing to get away from all the other people in the house. As long as I was there reading, my aunt let no one bother me. It was my own secret refuge. Even though I could be seen, it was a private fence for myself. That was where I healed, in the solace of that landing. Early on, I was afraid that they knew and that they blamed me and that I had done something terribly bad, something that would bring shame to our house, to my mother, to my uncle who reared me. I was so afraid of that shame that I didn’t let anybody in on it. I didn’t open up about anything to anybody. My aunt used to say that children are to be seen and not heard. That was exactly me. I did not want myself to be heard in fear of being judged even more.

Zibby: I’m so sorry that you had this experience. It’s heartbreaking. The way you wrote about it, it’s like we all were living through it on your shoulder as you went through it. It hurts. It physically hurts the reader, almost, to go through it. A lot of this book centered on this period of childhood for you. Yet we know what’s happened, the fast-forward of life. There wasn’t a lot in between. How did you go from, as you said, eleven-year-old girl, sixteen-year-old girl, everything that you wrote about in the book to your career now? What do you do with all those feelings as you go through? What happened? Give me the PS of the whole thing.

Goldie: The PS is there was a lot of stumbling, a lot of falling. There was a lot of what I call self-torture. You torture yourself over the years for this. There was a lot of compartmentalizing and tucking away. I did as my mother did. I tucked it in, and I kept moving. I raised my children. I got married and had children. I went back to college. I started a career as a journalist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta making $7.50 an hour. Twenty-five hours a week was the cap. I started from the beginning just as my mother had. I kept swinging. There was one day, though, when things just caught up with me. I had been on NBC News. I had been on Good Morning America, the Today Show, All Things Considered, the BBC. You name it, I had been on that show talking about social issues of nearly every stripe. One morning, it all caught up with me. My own story stopped me in my tracks.

I had to write it down. I wrote the first essay for The Daily Beast back in 2019. That essay became this memoir. I would say to anybody reading this book, because I wanted to take you in the moment so you could see, feel, smell everything that I was experiencing, we know how this story ends. We know that I raised three amazing children and three glorious grandchildren. We know that I not only survived, but I thrive. I want everybody to keep their eye on that true north. No matter how bad it got for me, the cousins, my siblings, no matter how desperate things became, we all made it. My aunt lived to be a very old woman. My mother’s going to live to be a very old woman. Despite everything that they experienced, we all made it, some of us less than whole, for sure. An old friend told me, everything may not be perfect again, but it will be all right if you let it. I decided to let it be okay.

Zibby: I love what you said, that there’s a difference between being whole and being perfect and just being okay. Sometimes that’s the best we can do. That’s okay. That’s good. I also loved what you said at the beginning about how we all come to life with all of our broken bits. Sometimes I look around, and I’m like, everybody walking down the street, everybody in this bus or everybody in this airplane or whatever, if you just looked at the cracks of all the people, all the damage that’s been done, it’s amazing that we all can operate in society. Maybe that’s why things are falling apart the way they are. I don’t know.

Goldie: It is amazing that we can still get on the bus the next day. It’s amazing that we still wake up to take on these days. Oprah Winfrey said once, courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it’s that gentle voice in the morning that says, I will try again. Every morning is a new “try again” for me. I get to start over every day.

Zibby: The thing is, there’s somebody out there listening and somebody out there reading your book or listening to your audiobook or whatever. They’re hearing this. It’s making all the difference. It’s going to make all the difference.

Goldie: That’s exactly what we’re hoping for. People said, Goldie, why write a book like this? Why talk about the dirty laundry? Why talk about the bad things? Because I want other people to know that there’s an opportunity for them, that they’re not alone, that they have safe harbor to be their own witness, to tell their own story. Some of it may be still unfolding. These are not the things that we should be hiding from, the warts and all that we should be embracing about ourselves. Perfection is in the imperfection. I am hoping that this book reaches young people. I’m turning fifty-five. I hope that it reaches another Goldie and says, you have another opportunity.

Zibby: What about the part about the shame that you felt? Is there any way to just let people know that they don’t need to feel the shame? That’s so ill-placed. It might be an instinct to feel that way, but if they could just let go of that.

Goldie: Shame is taking some of the blame. Shame is taking culpability in your own victimization. I just don’t buy that. For many years, especially in my early twenties, I showered incessantly every day multiple times a day. I had no idea why. I’d say, I’m just sweaty. I was trying to scrub off the shame, scrub off what I thought was the guilt. Fifty-five-year-old me looks back and says, what was an eleven-year-old girl really guilty of other than wanting to ride her bike to the park and show it off to her friends? There comes a time when, as we mature and as we grow, that we begin to look at these events in their appropriate perspective. That’s where the shame went for me. The shame, for me, went with, what would a twelve or thirteen-year-old girl really know about making choices, about how she should or shouldn’t be treated? What would she really know about these things? I gave myself the benefit of the doubt in my later years that I couldn’t give myself early on.

Zibby: Then what was it like having kids at the same age when all of this happened to you?

Goldie: My daughter wrote her memoir. It came out two weeks before mine. It’s called The In-Between. She writes it at the same age as I have written mine, between the time she’s around thirteen years old. Without knowing what’s in my book, what she catalogs is how trauma is passed down through generations. What she catalogs is, she had a mom just like mine, who was fighting to survive, hope, and make it, who was reconciling herself, navigating her own rivers of grief and mourning and shame, and that she too would begin to mourn and grieve her own. As she was coming of age, maybe things could’ve been better. Maybe I could’ve kept a better house or had a better boyfriend or a better job. Maybe. She understands about me as I now understand about my mother. Every single thing I had, my children got, every ounce of it. For her, it was the same kind of living and reliving. We know what happens at the end of her story too. She goes to Brown University on an early admit. She becomes an educator and runs a charter school in San Francisco. We know how her story transforms. I think that’s the glory in all of that, of having raised three incredibly bright children, who are all writers, by the way, but who all have a sense of self-power. They’re meeting this world, I say, on their own terms. They have a genuine sense that they are in charge of their own destinies. I hope that I’ve played a part in giving them that.

Zibby: Did they know the events that happened in the book? Had you talked to them about it? No?

Goldie: We hadn’t discussed it. No, we had never discussed it. They had some inkling about our family matters because we were so distant in so many ways. We’d come for holidays, but we really didn’t have that big of a relationship with family during that time. They knew that we were a bit of an island and that we were different in some ways. They had no idea about what had gone on in my Aunt Geraldine’s house. They had no idea that I hadn’t been wholly raised by my mother, that I lived with my aunt almost the majority of my childhood. They didn’t know that I’d been assaulted, not once, but multiple times. They had no idea about that. What they did know was that I had a disconnection with our family that they just couldn’t put their finger on exactly. Today, they all do. I had some very tough conversations with them before I wrote the book. After I wrote the first essay, I let them read it. Then they said, “You have to publish this, don’t you?” I said, “Sure, I do.” Tougher conversations have come with my mom, who now has a brand-new ration of guilt. Just last evening, I had another conversation with her and with my older daughter to say, you aren’t culpable here. You did the things, made the choices you knew needed to be made to keep your daughter as safe as possible. Sure, there were some tough conversations, but my children, they had no idea.

Zibby: Wow. That must have changed the dynamic between all of you. If my mother were to all of a sudden tell me all this, I feel like it would just — I don’t know. It changes your whole relationship when you get to know someone in a new way, obviously.

Goldie: Yes, but the transparency breeds even greater intimacy. My children and I, we’re best friends, all of us. That became exceedingly helpful as you begin to unspool a story like this. The transparency, the authenticity, I’ve always been known for that. I’ve always been known to say the ugly thing out loud. When I decided, yeah, we’re going to write this, my children were not surprised. They weren’t surprised at all.

Zibby: Now that you wrote it and it’s out there and everything — I feel like this must have been something that had been weighing on you for a long time to get it out. How do you feel now that it’s out there? Where do you go from here? Do you write more books? Do you want to share more stories? There’s so much you didn’t cover in this book. You could really add some more installments.

Goldie: There is more. My publisher and I haggled over how much to tell now or what should be told maybe in another volume. My next story probably is surrounding myself and my kids and how we began to navigate the world together. I’m now raising my nine-year-old granddaughter. The circumstances behind why I am fifty-five and raising a nine-year-old, that’s another story to tell, but it will have to wait. It will have to wait until she is of an age where she can decide that she’d like the world to know her story. It will wait just a little while. In between now and then, maybe I’ll write a little more fiction.

Zibby: Nice. Amazing. What advice do you have for aspiring memoirists in particular who are wrestling with a story trying to find a way to tell it? Maybe it’s hard. What’s your advice?

Goldie: There are good drafts, and there are no drafts. Write it down in pieces if you have to, through the hours of the night if you must, in notebooks. I wrote part of this book on subways on the notes in my cell phone. Write it in snatches if you must. Take time for yourself. Give yourself space. Forgive yourself as you go along and you stumble upon a piece of hurt that you might feel overwhelming. Or your story just might be a joyful one. Write that one too. You may decide that that’s a story you don’t want the world to really know, but you’ve been your own witness in the end. What I’d say is write when you can. Get the draft down. Put your full self on the page. Let yourself fly apart. When you start to edit, when you start to constrain your story, your voice, your readers will catch onto that pretty quickly. I think they gravitate when they know that you’ve been vulnerable on that page.

Zibby: Let yourself fly apart. That is awesome. That is great, wonderful advice. So inspiring and amazing. Goldie, thank you so much. This has been so nice and was just as deep and intimate as the experience of reading the book. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Goldie: You’re very welcome. I can’t wait to get to Zibby’s Books. I’m so excited for you. I am so excited for you. What a dream come true.

Zibby: I know. I can’t wait. Thank you. Please come visit.

Goldie: Absolutely.

Zibby: Buh-bye. Have a great day.

Goldie: Buh-bye. Thank you so much, Zibby.

Zibby: Thanks.

Goldie Taylor, THE LOVE YOU SAVE: A Memoir

THE LOVE YOU SAVE: A Memoir by Goldie Taylor

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