Wel­come to Wher­ev­er We Are: A Mem­oir of Fam­i­ly, Care­giv­ing, and Redemption

June 29, 2019

Wel­come to Wher­ev­er We Are is a med­i­ta­tion on what shalom bay­it real­ly means and expos­es domes­tic vio­lence in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. It’s about what we hold onto, what we let go of, how we remem­ber oth­ers, and how we’re remem­bered. Cohan shares her sto­ry of car­ing for her father, a man who was lov­ing and cru­el, whose career as an adver­tis­ing exec­u­tive includ­ed cre­at­ing slo­gans like Hey, how bout a nice Hawai­ian punch?” and who was affec­tion­ate, cre­at­ing mag­i­cal coat pock­ets filled with choco­late kiss­es when she was a lit­tle girl, yet who was also prone to vicious remarks like You’d make my life eas­i­er if you’d com­mit suicide.”

Cohan weaves in her exper­tise as a soci­ol­o­gist and coun­selor to address ques­tions relat­ed to mar­riage, vio­lence, divorce, only chil­dren, inti­ma­cy, and loss. A sto­ry many can relate to as we reck­on with our choic­es against the back­drop of com­pli­cat­ed fam­i­ly dynam­ics, this is about how we might come to live our own lives bet­ter amidst unpre­dictable changes through grief and healing.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Deb­o­rah Cohan

  1. How does the book change or expand how you define abuse?

  2. Do you find your­self drawn to the author’s father? Why or why not? Is he a sym­pa­thet­ic character?

  3. The book is orga­nized around a lit­er­ary tech­nique known as the objec­tive cor­rel­a­tive where objects and sit­u­a­tions serve as sym­bols for reveal­ing com­plex emo­tion­al ter­rain. What did these mun­dane yet evoca­tive objects and events come to mean in the book and to you as a reader?

  4. What is the role of mem­o­ry in trau­ma? What is the role of mem­o­ry in grief?

  5. What is the role of mem­o­ry in care­giv­ing? What is the role of mem­o­ry in identity?

  6. What ques­tions and answers do the book reveal about forgiveness?

  7. What do you make of the author’s moth­er in the sto­ry? Is she a sym­pa­thet­ic character?

  8. What appears to be the sig­nif­i­cance of friend­ship in the author’s life?

  9. The author and her part­ner, Mike, are involved in what is referred to as a LAT, a liv­ing apart togeth­er” rela­tion­ship. What seem to be the strengths and lim­i­ta­tions of such a union?

  10. What is the role of anger and rage in the book? How do we see the anger and rage that the author wit­nessed and expe­ri­enced in var­i­ous set­tings as well as her own legit­i­mate rage at spe­cif­ic con­di­tions and arrange­ments? How do we see the author re-chan­nel that rage cre­ative­ly in ways that are high­ly transformative?

  11. Where in the sto­ry is there evi­dence of heal­ing, recov­ery, and per­son­al triumph?