An Unlikely Hero

Carol A. Hand

Who is Agnes Angeline Sero? This woman who walked between cultures, the descendant of warring nations? This lonely, insecure, yet creative and fiercely inquisitive woman who set off alone to explore the question of hegemony? What gave her the strength to persevere?

The challenges she faced were many – not the typical villains and dragons in heroic tales. The obstacles were taken-for-granted beliefs, bureaucratic structures, and unquestioned social conventions.



She survived childhood abuse. Although the wounding was deep and isolating, it left many unanticipated gifts. Among them was her ability to focus so intensely that physical and emotional pain disappeared as she shifted her mind to observe and contemplate questions of life, oppression, and possibilities. Burning curiosity gave her a reason to live. Curiosity graced her with an open gentleness that invited others to share their stories and their pain with her. They intuitively knew she would listen, understand, and care.

But sometimes, she absorbed too much pain. Sadly, there was no one who could understand the intensity of her suffering or the power of the love that made her a fierce and tenacious adversary of injustices. The only way for her to survive was to sometimes retreat into the world of books and fantasy.

While writing Agnes’ story and sharing some of the stories she gathered during her journey, I wonder if I am retreating from the world like Agnes. Will any of this make a difference? I honestly don’t know. Like Agnes, it’s hard for me to retreat before the present challenge is resolved one way or the other. A momentary feeling of success or the discovery of yet another path that leads to more learning?

Maybe it will be both…


Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

27 thoughts on “An Unlikely Hero

  1. I am inclined to agree with what you are saying, here, if I’m not misreading your purport.

    Retreating from reality is absolutely necessary if one is to preserve and strengthen one’s sanity, I think. I don’t see it as a sign of weakness, although it can be overindulged, if it becomes inveterate escapism. For the world really is in many respects and without exaggeration brutal and uncaring. The mind, especially one attuned to the suffering of others, like the body, absolutely needs occasional and regular respite from what strains it the most, although this needed flight from reality always carries with it the risk of becoming an abdication of responsibility or a disengagement from what needs to be engaged.

    But there really is no other choice. To preserve kindness in a mostly unkind world, empathy in a largely unsympathetic society, you must create in the realm of the imaginary a place where such an emotion and moral impulse can be projected, elaborated and made psychologically real (given a social reality that really precludes its elaboration in practice). By doing so, one also prepares the ground for making kindness potentially effective in reality, on the one hand, as a fillip to concrete personal gestures of generosity and, on the other, as a moral basis from which to critique all of the injustices and barbarities currently inherent to our way of life and, furthermore, to signal the urgency of the need to overturn a social order that is clearly inimical to life.

    This is how i’m reading you, Carol. I’m I reading you correctly?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Such profound and eloquently crafted comments, Norman. Thank you for sharing such depth and understanding.

      Agnes is the central character in the book I’m working on, a fictive/autobiographical version of a younger me. As I reread the fieldnotes I wrote during an ethnographic study of Ojibwe child welfare issues, I was reminded of how overwhelmingly difficult it was to continue. Story after story about suffering and hegemony, observing the consequences, ethically bound to remain an impartial observer. The heaviest unresolved question for me is how to use this information to raise awareness, touch hearts, and present feasible, practical alternatives to “the injustices and barbarities currently inherent to our way of life…” Your comments give me some hope that it may be possible.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I now have a much better grasp of what you are wrestling with, I think. So my comment was not too far off the mark.

        Fiction, the imaginary, the book that you are writing, is a necessary kind work under our circumstances for the reason I sketched out: it keeps the ethical dimension of human life, one that is currently being threatened out of existence, alive and breathing.

        So even if it doesn’t bear fruit in terms of precipitating ‘structural’ change – what is needed – that it documents the ills of the times and the causes of those ills (economic, institutional, political, and so on), or even if only a partial list of those ills and causes, it succeeds in what it is designed to achieve, because the social function of serious fiction is to preserve a vision of what is ethically humane in a social context that falls far short of that.

        If it makes us uncomfortable with the way things are, if it paints reality in its actual repugnance, and thus prompts us to wonder about how things might be better arranged to better realize the ethically imperative, it does its job.

        You do not need to offer solutions or even the right solutions, although if you think you are seeing a way forward, then you should indeed include that as part of your vision.

        But I think it is enough to show what is wrong along with why it is wrong without having to trouble yourself too much with any prescriptives or remedies, or with whether those that you have to offer will be taken up or could actually make a difference.

        Write the work. Retreat when you have to. Then return. There is nothing futile about it. And it’s necessary, as you know only too well. And you have a beautiful style of writing. You will be read.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so good to hear from you, Vellissima. I hope all is well with you, too. I am curious about your travels and explorations.

      I’ve not been on WordPress as often during the past few weeks – I’ve been busy writing and then taking time to reflect and recover from revisiting accounts of abuse, cultural loss, and hegemony. I’ve missed reading your latest posts. I do look forward to the chance to catch up soon. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, your absence has been noticed! I’m off for the US next week, and then on to Medellin. My own mind is in a bit of overdrive, so I’ve also not been posting much. Living with abuse, even when it is others’, is very draining. Take your time and take a breath when you need to.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You owe it to Agnes and to Carol to tell your stories. I am sure that the reflection necessary to tell the stories at times is painful but you are a truth teller who is clearing a path and making a way so that the future generations will understand and not make the same mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol, your writing is clearly from the heart, and that is the only place it should come from. Bravo! I read through the comments section, too. Are you still struggling with what the book is really about? Memoirs, even those that are fictionalized to protect the innocent (or otherwise), are not as much about the person writing them as they are about the message (theme) the author wants to convey to her audience–something she experienced or believes in because of her experiences that will resonate with many readers. Once you can articulate the message, writing becomes easier in that every decision you make goes back to a simple question: does this story/scene/character/whatever support my message and how does it support the message (the best memoirs are subtle and let the reader come to her/his own conclusions).

    Every subject matter, every story, is interesting to me because it reveals something about the human experience. I would love to help you in any way that I can. Contact me at if you would like to discuss this further. At the very least, I will be happy to edit the first 10 pages of your book!

    Writing is an act of courage and passion. I applaud you for listening to your heart and committing your experiences, memories, thoughts, and emotions to paper. Many people think about doing what you are doing but never follow through. Kudos to you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: