Monday, June 30, 2008

Somerville Writer Patricia Wild: A Self -Described ‘Old Hippie’ writes a new memoir.

Somerville Writer Patricia Wild: A Self -Described ‘Old Hippie’ writes a new memoir.

By Doug Holder

At a recent editorial meeting at The Somerville News Patricia Wild was asked what brought her to Somerville, she laughed and said: “What else, a man.” But Wild’s roots in Somerville run much deeper than that. Her father was born in Somerville, and since the late 70’s this School St. resident has contributed to Somerville in many ways: as an educator, journalist, writer and community activist.

For 17 years Wild was a fixture at the adult education program SCALE where she taught a women’s writing class. Her first short novel was titled “Swimming In It,” that was set in Somerville. The protagonist was based on a young woman Wild taught in a homeless shelter. The girl was in the shelter due to sexual abuse at her familial home. Later this girl tragically died from a heroin overdose. The book created a strong reaction and a lot of feedback. Wild said that 1 in 4 women have been sexually abused at one point according to recent studies, so many were able to relate to this girl’s sad fate.

Wild’s ambitions do not stop at fiction writing. She writes a popular and sometimes controversial column for “The Somerville Journal,” and is currently working on a draft of play about an Alzheimer’s victim, and his caretaker titled: “ Not For Nothing.”

In her new memoir “Way Open” she recounts her years in the early 60’s in Lynchburg, Virginia, where two African American students first integrated her high school. Wild said she was aware that she has lived a life of “white privilege,” and she wanted to revisit those years through this memoir. Wild went back to Lynchburg to interview these students who are now successful professionals. She struggled with writing a book that would not have her as a focus but rather the black community and their struggles with racism. To her surprise and annoyance the students, the black community, and the white community met her arrival with caution and reluctance. Eventually after questioning her own motives with the help of her Quaker faith, she slowly gained the people’s trust.

Wild clearly loves Somerville. She said: “This is a city that makes you feel that you might change something if you attend a meeting.” She used the example of the zoning plans for Union Square that have been modified due to community input.

Wild, who describes herself as an “old hippie,” continues to be an optimist. She feels the Internet is a good thing because it connects people across the world. Injustices like genocide can’t be covered up as they once were because of the accessibility of the Web.

Wild told the staff of The Somerville News, many of whom are in their 20’s,: “ I look to you, to your generation, for the real changes to come.”

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