When We Remember They Call Us Liars
It was the great Ernest Hemingway that once said, “…You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously…”
Author Suzanne Covich knows what it means to hurt like hell and to be able to write seriously.
Growing up in a small rural community in the 60’s, Suzanne said she loved school and believing in education.
It was the only way she could break free from her childhood - a childhood of physical, emotional and sexual abuse from her father.
Her mother pulled her out of school at the age of 13 to work in an old people’s home.
At the time, it was considered fair to withdraw a child from school in extenuating circumstances.
In Suzanne’s case, her single mother had left her abusive husband and was left to care for a large family, and in those days the boys were given the priority of education.
Being taken out of school was most distressing for Suzanne.
It was clear her passion began for writing at the tender age of 11, when she entered a story writing competition with a local paper.
She won an Encyclopedia. Her mother immediately passed it on to her brother.
She didn’t write much from then on, until she began therapeutic journaling in her 30s along with studying Creative Writing and teaching at University.
As I sat down with Suzanne for a coffee to discuss her extraordinary memoir of childhood, When We Remember They Call Us Liars, she recounts how her passion for writing and teaching began.
“From the time I was 11 years old, I promised myself I would become a writer one day and tell my story. Because of my background, education became my driving force. I want kids to learn and not give up, no matter their circumstance.”
“As a teacher and a writer, I’m incredibly observant of people’s behavior and keep detailed journals everyday, which is an asset when it comes to reflecting on different situations and keeping strong,” she said.
In her circumstance, Suzanne found it useful to enter her teaching career at a mature age and as a mother.
She could draw on her past experiences in life and relate to young students who may be dealing with sexual violence and bullying.
“The classroom confronted me, the stories I was coming across in the classroom helped me to get in touch with mine.”
She knows too closely the importance of positive educational experiences. “Classrooms are like a community, with children from all walks of life. If you have this approach kids will help one another,” she says.
Suzanne was the first Australian to win two, National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEITA), nominated by parents and students in engaging students in reading. At the time there was only one or two student’s in her class that had read a book back to front.
“Today in education there are so many things demanding their time. Getting kids to read today is a major problem.”
“I’m passionate about public education. It’s where you find those who aren’t as privileged, don’t have the same opportunities; those who cannot afford private education but still deserve a chance, she said.”
“Writing this book is not about therapy. Writing this book is about taking hold of the writer I’ve always known myself to be. It’s a celebration – fulfillment of a dream.
“I want to inspire kids and adults who have been in similar circumstances. It’s an important text for anyone who is dealing with children in these situations, a good resource for teachers and parents.”
A book she says would be beneficial for Year 12 TEE English, with a focus on child abuse, a topic not observed by TEE students.
It took three years out of the classroom for Suzanne to complete her book, thanks to two PHD scholarships provided by Edith Cowan University.
“I love my life now. It seems like everything has come together for me. The incredible support from ECU and the Fremantle Press, which has made writing this story the best experience of my life. My life is now beautiful. I love teaching at John Curtin College of the Arts.
“It’s knowing myself and refusing to forget, that makes me strong,” she said emotively.