Biographies & Memoirs

UNBROKEN Road to Freedom

By

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Worth reading 😎

An inspiring story of self-discovery through breaking generational violence, and her triumph against dire odds.

Synopsis

A true homeless to Harvard story of believing in oneself enough to keep going when the world gives up.

Unbroken: Road to Freedom is a purposeful memoir bringing readers inside the world of generational familial dysfunction that feeds on poverty, oppression, and abuse. Hidden in the deep corners of everyday life, layers unfold and depict underlying universal human struggles.

The American suburbs are out of reach as Leigh and her siblings delve into the world of children lost in transition. Poverty slowly infiltrates and permeates the daily lives of a seemingly normal family. Struggles lead them down a dark downward spiral of homelessness, drugs, crime, incarceration, violence, and abuse. Leigh, fueled by rebellion, refuses to give in, turning to the streets.

Leigh, a runaway at thirteen, placed herself in foster care at fourteen, and forced into an abusive marriage at fifteen. She escaped to hiding by seventeen to change the trajectory of her life for survival and truly live.

Unbroken: Road to Freedom is a journey of surviving one's family without losing yourself and finding the strength to fight back when life (or someone) beats you down. It's about embracing fear embracing courage as a roadmap toward awakening freedom.

Unbroken is a powerful memoir of one woman’s determination to break generational abuse. Regan’s impressive inner strength was gained through sheer grit.

The book opens with The Silent Agreement, unspoken statements of the voiceless. Strategic repetition indicates lack of personal power: when Regan finds her voice she flips the poem into statements of empowerment. 

The opening scene is of Regan running away to escape violence. She was thirteen. While not all of her childhood was abusive this was certainly the pattern. The book continues chronologically, from birth to present day.

Her parents were poor, prioritising alcohol and drugs. Housing varied with their ability to find work. As a teenager exhausted from caring for younger siblings, Regan was hospitalised with mononucleosis: the “extreme poverty meant ... severe deprivation of basic human needs like food, shelter, and health care”, something she internalised as personal unworthiness.

At fifteen, marrying “bad boy” Cain, the cycle of abuse continued. She “was too naïve to recognize it”. Cain’s violence escalated until she fled for her life, child in tow. After living in hiding Jamie enters her life: with stability and unconditional love she begins to heal.



Regan’s phrasing, particularly when describing her solace in nature, is evocative: “A simple wildflower with beauty and solidarity … knew how to preserve its petals by moving with the wind and not fighting against it”. 

She recalls contemporary hit songs playing on the radio at pivotal moments. These seemingly-minor details not only consolidate the timing of events, they foreshadow future changes in life direction. 


Design is attractive; layout, divided into four distinct periods with short chapters, is easy to navigate. However, the twenty-two page epilogue featuring continuous text would have benefitted from additional spacing and subheadings.

Regan is the first in her family to finish high school. She gained a university degree, then a doctorate. She founded schools which model pedagogy enabling at-risk students to experience success. She is a world-renowned educational leader, a writer and editor.

It is jarring, therefore, that this book’s editing is sloppy: passive voice is lacking (“kegs stacked against the hay bales”), incorrect homonyms are used (“loneliness bread anger”), and sentences include word choices which don’t combine (“Jamie’s dad planned wore a [Halloween] mask”). This results in clunky expression and impeded understanding. Regan’s passionate memoir, a worthy legacy and potential resource for the oppressed, deserves better. 


Unbroken is an influential story of triumph against dire odds. Its honesty is unwavering. Regan’s formidable power shines as she journals her incredible life story, where truth really is stranger than fiction. An inspiring read, especially for the vulnerable.

Reviewed by

My first book features my journey through depression and into wellness. I’m working on my second book, with enough material for five such books featuring poems and art. I’ve scoped two prose books and a picture book. My ability to transcend these ideas into reality depends on time-watch this space!

Synopsis

A true homeless to Harvard story of believing in oneself enough to keep going when the world gives up.

Unbroken: Road to Freedom is a purposeful memoir bringing readers inside the world of generational familial dysfunction that feeds on poverty, oppression, and abuse. Hidden in the deep corners of everyday life, layers unfold and depict underlying universal human struggles.

The American suburbs are out of reach as Leigh and her siblings delve into the world of children lost in transition. Poverty slowly infiltrates and permeates the daily lives of a seemingly normal family. Struggles lead them down a dark downward spiral of homelessness, drugs, crime, incarceration, violence, and abuse. Leigh, fueled by rebellion, refuses to give in, turning to the streets.

Leigh, a runaway at thirteen, placed herself in foster care at fourteen, and forced into an abusive marriage at fifteen. She escaped to hiding by seventeen to change the trajectory of her life for survival and truly live.

Unbroken: Road to Freedom is a journey of surviving one's family without losing yourself and finding the strength to fight back when life (or someone) beats you down. It's about embracing fear embracing courage as a roadmap toward awakening freedom.

INVISIBLE

The Silent Agreement

I agree.

I agree not to be.

Not to be,

Not to see,

Not to hear,

Not to smell,

Not to taste,

Not to eat,

Not to drink,

Not to think,

Not to feel,

Not to want,

Not to need,

Not to try,

Not to cry,

Not to tell,

Not to be,

Not to be,

Not to be.


~ signed, daughter

Roberta St. Claire, Daughters


EVENING COMMUTERS, BIKERS, walkers, runners passed by—making occasional eye contact—and no one knew I was a runaway. I tried blending with the landscape to be invisible. Freedom—escaping and beginning again—was exhilarating. Addicted to a runner’s high, I ran each morning. However, this run differed.

I had dreamed a thousand times about leaving to escape, seek freedom, control my destiny, and not be like her—or like them. The thrill of running yielded potency and addiction, more than any drug promised. A capricious high of freedom contrasted the threat of captivity and torture. The path I chose for my thirteen-year-old self didn’t guarantee a positive ending.

The high carried power as the yin and yang of what I ran toward contrasted imminence and hope. I ran to save my life; yet, risked it. I had to get out to survive. Trapped in a world of oppression, violence, abuse, and drugs, I almost lost sight of who I was. Dying was a part of life—but it felt as if a piece of my soul was the price for living in poverty. I no longer wanted to live the way my parents were living. I deserved better.

I sat by the water’s edge in a spot where the seagrass met cattails, hiding me from the roadside. Before this day, I used to pass by this spot during morning runs and found it peaceful. The water murmured as it caressed the pebbled shoreline. The fight-or-flight adrenaline dissipated, and my body gave way to a heaviness led by uncertainty as anxiety spun in the pit of my gut. I had not planned to run that day, but Stepfather’s aggression had crossed an irreversible line; another physical altercation. Violence was a normal part of daily life, but this encounter differed from the others. It permeated me, awakening my instinctual rebellion.

The sting of his slaps remained as I processed what occurred earlier. His calloused hands held my shoulders down; one knee shoved into my abdomen, the other bent between my legs as I tried to push his face away from mine.

“Get off me,” I screamed. “Leave me alone.”

Mother, with selective oblivion, was at work waiting tables to support Stepfather’s drug-dealing habits, leaving mom duties to me. He was crushing my ribs. It was hard to breathe. I struggled to fight him, to keep him off me, and at an arm’s length. Wriggling on the ground, it worked for a fleeting moment. But he was much stronger than I. His size gave him an advantage. I could no longer keep him at a distance as my muscles grew weak. His knees, now both between my legs, pushed against the ground to give him leverage. He spread his legs further to pin me and thrust his pelvis against mine to control my writhing. You are a monster, I thought. I hate you. I truly hate you. Anger gave way to salty tears. He held my head. It forced me to see his war-worn face: his angry eyes and full beard. His overlong hair caressed my face. He laid on top of me, holding and dominating any power I once had.

Violence subsided to my mumbled plea: “Get off me.”

He reeked of Wild Turkey and cigarettes as he made his last threats. When he realized I stopped resisting, he emerged the victor and I the victim—at least that’s what he thought. He pushed himself off me, satisfied he had won, and pleased to have power. He straightened his pants, crooked from the struggle, and walked away with no last words of warning. I rolled to a fetal position on my right side. I hate him. He is a monster. I need to leave before he does something worse, or I end up dead. Local fishers infiltrated the shoreline around the lake one by one, nodding to each other with silent gestures as they settled in for the night. Some lit small campfires, while others perched hooks to hang lanterns. Their lights dangled low. The sound of spinning reels echoed as they each cast their lines parallel to the shore. Reels turned until the bait penetrated the water’s surface. They lay their poles against handmade posts as the dusk faded.

I left the shoreline to find a spot more secluded, hoping for a safe place to rest before moving on. Certainly, they realized I left and are looking for me by now. I found a spot beneath a cove of trees where hovering branches and plush leaves met a bed of seagrass. Cold, exhausted, and aching from the struggle with Stepfather, my body melted into the earth as I laid my head down and noticed the layers of sound filling the night air: the ebb and flow of the water’s edge, a slight breeze whispering through the trees, crickets chirping, reels casting, and fires crackling.

I processed the day. Sometimes one is too many, and a thousand is never enough. Perspective—more time, not enough time, all the time, never—it all comes down to view. Who’s right, who’s wrong, what’s real, and what’s not real? Does it even matter?


About the author

Dr. Kimberly Regan is a writer, editor, yogi, runner, education leader, & ed-tech designer. She started the first K-8 charter school in Nevada (1999). She has served in education for 25+ years. Her work was featured in local magazines, a division of USA Today, Yoga Journal, & Harvard University. view profile

Published on August 09, 2020

Published by

100000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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