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Crushed under the wheel of the past, and rising to meet its challenges

Antonello Silverini for the Boston Globe

These are people and parts of ourselves we usually turn away from or keep at a distance

Thank you to Evan Allen for writing “Under the wheel,” and kudos to the Globe for putting her story of Anthony Pledger, who is in federal prison, on the front page last Sunday. It is one of the best long-form pieces I can remember reading in the Globe. Allen has crafted an account that is at once universal and unique to Boston. I couldn’t put the article down, even though it was excruciating to confront the pain and horrors she recounted.

I feel that understanding the questions and answers Allen explores would be key to understanding myself and some of the people I know here in Boston. But these are people and parts of ourselves from whom we usually turn away or whom we keep at a distance: the parts that are terrified and lash out with violence — toward others, as in Pledger’s case, or toward oneself, as in Allen’s. Allen probes whether these dark tendencies are attributable to nature or nurture and whether it is possible to escape a fate that seems inevitable and beyond our control.

I want to recommend two books I read this year that confront the same questions from a non-Boston perspective. “Lose Your Mother,” by Saidiya Hartman, explores the author’s African and African American heritage through the lens of the dissociation created for individuals and societies by the trans-Atlantic slave trade. “Hidden Valley Road,” by Robert Kolker, tells the story of a white, middle-class American family that had 12 children, six of whom suffered from schizophrenia and six of whom suffered from living so closely with this disease and its consequences. Allen’s article belongs in a league with these larger explorations that are surely part of answering, or at least confronting, the difficult questions of who we are and who we will become.


Susan Kalt



The writer is a professor of Spanish at Roxbury Community College.

Brilliant, unsparing story sends reader back to her Faulkner

In response to Evan Allen’s brilliant and unsparing story of her and Anthony Pledger, and, in essence, to all those struggling to overcome the past, I have to quote William Faulkner, who knew better than most: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Linda Larson