Before reading Parkland Speaks, I already had a few ideas about awful, unspeakable things I’d like to do to anyone who claims this shooting–or any other tragedy of gun violence–was a hoax with “crisis actor” survivors or who so much as makes fun of those who made it out alive. After reading it? Well, the nicest thing I can say is that those people might deserve being verbally smacked across the face with this book.
To quote the jacket copy, “It is raw. It is real.” Took the words right out of my mouth! That’s exactly the best description of the art, poetry, and words inside Parkland Speaks. Some of the poetry is… less than quality, but it misses the point entirely to focus on that. These are people who found the words they needed to speak of the unspeakable, who made visual art to express what they might not be able to say. The lack of polish makes what they put on the page more resonant and communicates the unspoken.
A particularly noteworthy pair of complementary work included in the book: a speech given to Congress by Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher Stacey Lippel and an account of the tragedy written by survivor Madalyn Snyder. Lippel mentions that one of her students screamed upon seeing that the next-door teacher Scott Beigel was dead–and Madalyn Snyder tells you she was that student while relating her own experience. The shared experience they have and the role they play in each other’s memories of that day is made especially haunting given that this is the only time such an overlap occurs.
All of their stories are presented in a small, fragile-seeming paperback with scrapbook-style formatting that mixes typed words with scanned in, handwritten works “held” in place with tape or rocks. Really, give an award to Jaclyn Whalen for her interior design work!
The book’s insubstantial construction does make it less than ideal for smacking someone across the face with it, I admit, but that’s why you do it verbally instead of physically. Remember, physical violence is bad and I don’t condone it! But that’s not important. This is: we must never forget Parkland. If you read Parkland Speaks, you will never forget doing so.