My Friend Tracy

December 14th, 2007 — 4:43pm

Two months ago, I got a call from an editor at Backpacker Magazine: “Hi, I’m Tracy Ross,” says the voice. “I wrote this piece coming up in the January issue and I want to work with you to get pr.”

“I want this to go all the way, even to Oprah,” she says.

I’ve been doing pr for 20 years and I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard those words. Tracy didn’t see me roll my eyes but I said, “send me the piece and I’ll get back to you.”

In “The Source of All Things”, she tells the story of how her step-father molested her for the first time in the family trailer at her favorite campsite on Idaho’s Redfish Lake. “Sandpaper is crawling on my skin,” she writes. “At least that’s what I think it is, until I feel hot breath against my cheek.” It was the first of dozens of molestations, which would span the next 6 years, and haunt Tracy for 3 decades into adulthood.
The article goes on to tell the story of her abuse, her mother’s absenteeism and denial, and her journey into the wilderness of the rugged, isolated Sawtooth Mountains to confront her step-father, who agrees to travel with her to the original location of their turmoil and pain. What Tracy and her father learn is that the truth is much more complicated than a simple confession.

When I read this piece I was floored by the quality of the writing. “Well,” I thought, “Oprah is certainly worth the old college try.”

And guess what? It just might work. The producer fell in love with the piece, as I did, and so did his executive producer. Now it’s up to Oprah.

And not only is Tracy willing to talk, but so is her step-father. “He might be eviscerated,” I tell Tracy. He knows that and he’s still willing to go on. I think he’s seeking redemption. I think he’s a brave, imperfect man.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tracy for the first time a few days ago, when I was in Boulder for the Backpacker sales meeting. She’s like a mountain version of Maggie Gyllenhaal. Her eyes moved me — they are both sad and joyful, open, and far seeing. Pain, faced head-on, can confer a complicated wisdom.

As word of Tracy’s piece spread, I’ve gotten emails from people telling me of their own abuse. One man was so angry and sad he could barely get his words out.This is the power of great and truthful writing. It can and does change worlds.

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3 Responses to “My Friend Tracy”

  1. Brad

    Hello, I think that your blog would be a great place to leave my comment about the article that Tracy Ross wrote about her abuse. I wanted her email address but her brother wouldn’t give it to me. He doesn’t know the state of his family right now. I would just like to congratulate Tracy for her article. It was especially moving for me because I know this family, I was and am good friends with her brother Chris. At the time, when the allegations came out, the information we got (Chris’s friends) was that Tracy was accusing his Dad of these horrible things and we didn’t believe that they were true. She seemed like a very insecure girl looking for attention is what I thought. Those kind of things were just too horrible for a nice middle class family. Those kind of things happened in single wide trailers in parks. Not at my freinds house….What a little bitch. When I think back about Tracy I realize that I didn’t even know her. But she seemed angry. When I think about the family now…something wasn’t right. Her Mom never really went anywhere. She seemed depressed. Her Dad was very anal about things. The house had to be neat and in order. It seemed as though we were intruding for the short time that we were there. Chris would warn that we had to leave right away when we went to pick him up. It seemed like we were hardly allowed over. Something was wrong in the house. I know that there were a lot of people that had the same attitude that I had about it and I know that those attitudes must have imprisioned Tracy. Where people wouldn’t believe the truth. I hope she has the opportunity to read this. So she knows that I am sorry and I believe every word in her article. It has been many years since I have seen her and from what I can tell she sounds like a very accomplished person. She has really found power in her words. I hope she has found her peace…with best wishes from tall Brad

  2. Dena

    I have personally known Tracy for quite a while, and she is one of the brightest (in terms of spirit, as well as intelligence) people I have ever known.

    Her strength in sharing her story is truly phenomenal.

    Thanks for helping her out.

  3. Kate Finlayson

    I just finished reading Tracy’s story. It was given to me by my best friend Scott. His friend Kendall gave it to him. I have passed it on to my husband to read. We are all survivors of childhood sexual abuse by a parent. What a powerfully written saga of pain, abuse, confusion and truth.
    Thank you to Tracy for writing it. The natural world became my healing ground in my late 30’s after leaving Hollywood for the wilds of North Carolina with my true love. To heal my soul.
    She captured the rawness, the depth of sadness masked so well. The truth of it. It. The betrayal. The Need to know. What a writer she is.
    Thank you for having this blog here for me to say thank you.

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