Deborah Cohan’s Memoir, Welcome to Wherever We Are, Deals with Caregiving for a Father with Dementia


Deborah-Cohan-Welcome-To-Wherever-We-AreWelcome to Wherever We Are by Deborah J. Cohan

My motivation for writing this book was simple though the topics I tackle and the process to publish it were far more complicated. My motivation was one of ethical responsibility. I felt compelled to share the intimacy of my journey as it is embedded in much larger societal issues that I know resonate with so many, and given the professional expertise that I draw on in the book, I sensed that others might benefit. I felt a strong commitment to help reduce others’ suffering.

The compulsion to write memoir emerges from thinking, “I couldn’t keep it to myself.” But, of course good memoir is much more than the need and desire to tell, spill, and expose; rather it is about connecting the personal, private, intimate realities of our experiences with larger public issues.

In my case then, the ethical responsibility to share my story is connected to the fact that the book is about abuse, and as someone committed to anti-violence work and social justice, it makes sense to break the silence around this issue that unfortunately still persists.  Also, this is a professionally informed memoir, and my work as a sociologist and as a former counselor for abusive men figures prominently in my thinking and positions me well for helping others to make sense of what is so confusing about domestic violence.

The book is a braided memoir detailing my role as a caregiver for my father who had been emotionally and verbally abusive to my mother and to me. So, really, I was writing about two weighty experiences that feel riddled with confusion—domestic violence and caregiving for a loved one with dementia. Both topics—abuse and dementia—are intense because they each carry so much stigma, shame, secrecy, and silence. The book is a meditation on what we hold onto, what we let go, how we remember others and how we’re remembered.

I knew that while neither experience is unique–caregiving or abuse–I was in a relatively unique position to start a conversation contemplating the complex nexus of the relationships of these experiences. As a sociologist interested in family violence and gender, I knew I had the capacity to see the following, among other things: how family secrets are maintained; how caregiving is gendered; and the myriad ways that individual issues we wrestle with in our private homes are actually connected to larger issues of the family as a social institution and to other social structures. When I set out to write this book, I knew deep down that I needed to better reconcile for myself personally that which I lecture and teach about constantly–the multidimensionality of abusers and survivors and the sense of ambivalence that is so often present in cases of family violence.

Importantly, while I was motivated to tell the truth of my life experience through the prism of what I know professionally, I was never propelled by seeking revenge or anything of the sort. I was determined to share my story with the great love and admiration I always had for my father and still do even more than eight years after he died.

It’s about the heart’s memory and touching the core of that tender space. In the end, I think readers will find a complicated love letter—to my father, my mother, my husband, other important men in my life that I’ve loved, my students, and ultimately myself.

Bio Deborah-Cohan

Deborah J. Cohan’s first book is Welcome to Wherever We Are: A Memoir of Family, Caregiving, and Redemption. A sought-after speaker, Cohan is available for talks, readings and workshops related to intimacy and relationships, gender-based violence and trauma, caregiving, grief and loss, body image, sexuality, and race, as well as creative writing and issues related to the landscape of higher education.

Cohan is a professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort, a contributing writer for Psychology Today online, a frequent contributor to Inside Higher Ed, and is regularly featured as an expert for national media on a range of social issues. She has been cited in: CNN, MSN, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, USA Today, US News & World Report, Cosmopolitan, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, Elite Daily, Utne Reader, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, TODAY, Bankrate, Vox, Slate, Vice News, Huffington Post, Bustle, Romper, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Christian Science Monitor.

Cohan has done domestic violence work in four states and worked as a counselor and clinical supervisor at the first battering intervention program in the United States. She has also served as an expert consultant in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Cohan is trained in mindfulness and healing work, and facilitates Deep River workshops.



Facebook: Deborah J Cohan Writing

Twitter: @CohanDebcohan

Instagram: cohandeborah

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