Shelley Davidow is the award-winning author of 44 books. Writing across genres, her nonfiction titles include Shadow Sisters, Whisperings in the Blood (University of Queensland Press, 2016, 2018), Playing with Words (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), and Fail Brilliantly (Familius, 2017). She is a lecturer in the School of Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, and lives near the beach with her family.

Exploring transgenerational memory through metaphor

A narrative exploration of the healing impact of writing my biographical memoir, Whisperings in the Blood

Inherited trauma is passed down through generations in a variety of ways. My biographical memoir, Whisperings in the Blood (2016), demonstrates through practice-led research how turning life into art and using metaphor as the vehicle to transmit emotional truth can result in emotional healing across generations. Using a fiction writer’s techniques, I explore the idea of employing intergenerational motifs as extended metaphor in order to grapple with the concept that ancestral wounds can be passed down as ‘whisperings in the blood’, or what I call ‘soul dispositions’. The effect of this practice-led research, which required that I had in-depth discussions with my dying father, my uncle and my dying great-uncle, resulted in the emotional healing of some of these relationships, as well as prompting a new level of empathy and understanding of my relatives, their stories, their parents’ stories. This led to profound insights on the role of shared nonfiction narratives in connecting a writer of memoir to both living and deceased ancestors and effecting degrees of emotional healing across the generations.