A memoir of growing up in a fractured, literary family, being seduced by a teacher, kicked out of boarding school, and then doing it all over again in middle age.
In 1982, Erika Schickel was expelled from the highly prestigious Buxton boarding school in the Berkshires for sleeping with a teacher. She was that girl–the pretty, precocious one who got seduced, caught, and then whisked away in the night to avoid scandal. But Erika's provocative, searing, and often funny memoir, The Big Hurt, asks the question, What really happens to that girl in the aftermath?
Schickel came of age in the 1970s, the angsty progeny of two writers: Richard Schickel, the prominent film critic for Time magazine and Julia Whedon, a romantic, disappointed novelist. After her parents’ divorce in 1976, Erika was dumped in a bohemian boarding school and left to navigate the world more or less alone.
The Big Hurt tells two stories: a girl coming of age unsupervised, her seduction and expulsion from school which led to decades of self-loathing, an insatiable desire for an all-consuming love, and an overwhelming feeling of guilt. The second is how that girl, grown into middle age, reenacted that trauma with a notorious LA crime novelist, blowing up her marriage and casting herself into the second exile of her life.
The Big Hurt looks at a legacy of female pain handed down a maternal bloodline and the cost of epigenetic trauma. It shines a light on the Manhattan haute culture class and the atmosphere of neglect in the 1970s and ‘80s that made girls grow up too fast. It looks at the long shadow cast by great, monstrously self-absorbed literary lives and the ways in which women pin themselves like beautiful butterflies to the cork board of male ego.
The Big Hurt shows how one woman survived abuse and neglect, survived her own scandals to claim her creative voice and repair the legacy of "hurt" in her family tree so that her own daughters might grow up free of it.