My Father’s Beast

coversmMaster author, illustrator and storyteller, Gail E. Haley has created a book about substance abuse in contemporary family life. The book uses allegory in which the ‘beast’ takes over a parent during active abuse.

As a progressive disease the ‘beast’ becomes more and more powerful until it controls the abuser’s life. Children who observe this transformation often become confused, hurt, angry, distanced and alienated.

Many children growing up in such circumstances find it difficult or impossible to communicate their experiences, fears and pain. This process can cripple them emotionally, psychologically and impair their ability to concentrate at school, placing them at greater risk.

dragon1smMY FATHER’S BEAST and the workshop based upon it [Telling the Untold Story] is a strategy that encourages children and alcoholics to articulate their situation to counselors and caregivers without guilt or fear of reprisal.
Intended Audience:
Counselors, teachers, caregivers who work with children from dysfunctional families, particularly those with alcohol/chemical abuse and dependency.
Length of Workshop:

phonesmOne day.
Objectives/ Goals:
-Participants will explore the role of storytelling as therapy & catharsis.
-Participants will practice the manipulation and presentation of narratives [characters, settings, conflict, crisis, resolution] using die cut figures created by the author/artist.
-Participants will explore techniques for helping children use their own figures, collages, sets and backgrounds to express themselves and their own circumstances.

The context for the workshop is consistent with what we know about the therapeutic value of storytelling and the contribution art and personal expression can make to the healing process.
The book has already begun to provoke reaction from children and adults. At an educational conference in Nashville, the presenter took a break. A woman in the audience approached the display table at the front of the room and picked up MY FATHER’S BEAST. A few moments later she approached the presenter: “that was my father”, she said. As she walked back up the aisle, she paused, turned to the presenter and said, ‘I have 14 years of sobriety myself”.

kitchensmIn rural North Carolina a teacher used the book with 6th grade students. Their teacher said:
“The students listened closely and were amazed at the illustrations. They wanted to touch the pictures because they look so real. One student said, ‘I really wanted to reach out and touch different parts of it’. Another indicated that, ‘ the illustrations were awesome. The story was great too. It sounded as if there really was a beast, instead of a person’.”

Since the tactile pictures had aroused the curiosity of the students, the teacher engaged the class in an activity using Haley’s paper cut collage technique to develop their own book about bullying.

This sensory response to the picture was exactly what the artist wanted to achieve. At the back of the book she writes: “to represent a diversity of experiences I created the illustrations as a patchwork of collage using cut or torn pieces of paper. All the papers were made by hand from natural fibers such as rice or mulberry”.