Are some people just born evil? Or can our world, what we encounter in life, turn us evil?
These are questions that have long plagued philosophers, scholars and, more recently, psychologists. And they're at the heart of Waukesha writer Kathie Giorgio's latest novel, Learning To Tell (A Life) Time, to be released on September 1st.
It is the follow-up to Giorgio’s award-winning 2011 book, The Home for Wayward Clocks, which chronicles the experiences of an abused and neglected teen named Cooley. In the sequel, Giorgio explores the troubled backgrounds of Cooley’s abusers, including her alcoholic and physically abusive mother.
But even as we learn more about Cooley's mother, Mara Rose, Giorgio says we are not meant to forgive her.
"You are meant to learn how this could happen, how could a woman become someone who could burn her child with cigarettes," she says.
Giorgio says her characters’ actions are inevitably influenced by negative past experiences. Cooley’s mother “was not born evil, she is not a monster; she became a monster. And things happened to her to lead her down that path," she says.
The concept of people becoming evil, rather than being born that way, has broader implications for our society. As she was writing the book, the shooting incidents at Sandy Hook, Aurora, Colo., and the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek occurred, as did the Boston Marathon bombing.
“Whenever we have bad things happen in our country, our first response is, 'Oh, that’s evil,’ and we point fingers and we say, 'That person is evil,'” Giorgio says.
She says as soon as we dismiss a person as inherently evil, “it’s like we’re removing responsibility from ourselves, as well . . . I think there is a way of stepping in and preventing these things.”
Giorgio says she was compelled to write this book to “show that you can step away from [an abusive] background and live a completely normal life.”
Although the book is one in a series, Giorgio says “the sequel stands on its own. You do not have to read The Home for Wayward Clocks in order to read this book.”
Giorgio will be the keynote speaker at the 2013 Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books on September 20. Lake Effect's Stephanie Lecci will be doing an on-stage Q&A with Giorgio at that event.