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Remembrance, Regrets, and Recovery
Episode 530th November 2023 • Books, Ballads, and B-Roll • HVSPN
00:00:00 00:19:42

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Hopewell Valley Student Podcasting Network 

Books, Ballads, and B-Roll

Remembrance, Regrets, and Recovery

Episode #5

You are listening to Books, Ballads, and B-roll the podcast with your hosts Bee and Alastair.

In this episode of Books, Ballads, and B-Roll the Podcast we discuss media related to themes of remembering, recovering from, and dealing with the past.

Segment 1: Behind You

In this fairly short yet incredibly touching book, a Black teenager named Jeremiah (or Miah) is shot by police in a case of mistaken identity. This happens in the first chapter, and the following chapters alternate between perspectives of different characters who were impacted. For example, his mother, a famous author, and his father, who left her for another woman, comb through memories of their son and the family they used to have. His friend Carlton, who struggles to come to terms with the death of the one person he felt understood him, ends up becoming friends with Ellie, Miah’s girlfriend whose house he had just left before he was killed. They form a deep bond due to their connection to Miah as well as a mutual feeling of being judged and misinterpreted. Ellie feels that her white parents never accepted her relationship with Miah or the depth of her sorrow. They continuously urge her to recover and move on, and don’t approve of her spending time with Miah’s friends and family, claiming this is a hindrance to her mental health. Carlton is just coming to terms with being gay and fears rejection of his father and certain friends, especially now that Miah is gone. Ultimately, a lot of the people whom Miah left behind form unexpected relationships with each other due to their shared grief and a desire to hold onto his memory. 

What we found the most interesting is that some of the chapters are from the perspective of Miah’s ghost. In the afterlife, he spends his time with his dead grandmother, who encourages him to let go of the living world. But Miah was taken too soon, and he is not ready to let go, at least not until he knows his loved ones are going to be okay. 

This book is by Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming. This book is less well known, and it’s actually, we just realized, a sequel to the book If You Come Softly, which is about Ellie and Miah’s relationship, which starts when they meet at a private school in Manhattan, and the scrutiny they face from friends and family. We really wish we had read this book first since it would have given us a lot of context, but we had no idea Behind You was a sequel!

Segment 2: The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells is a movie by the same animation studio as a movie we included in an earlier episode, Song of the Sea. It is a fictional tale but based on real events, as it involves the story behind the creation of the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illuminated manuscript from Ireland. It’s set in the Abbey of Kells during the age of Viking expansion, and centers around a boy named Brendan whose uncle is the abbott. Brendan is curious, animated, and cheerful, and is fascinated by the process of writing and illuminating books; apprenticed in the scriptorium, he wants to help finish the Book of Kells, which has been left unfinished there for many years. He also wants to explore the world beyond the abbey walls, but his uncle, named Cellach, is determined to keep him inside out of fear of viking attacks. Brendan ends up sneaking out into the forest outside the walls, encountering a fairy named Aisling who becomes his friend. His uncle repeatedly locks him in, only for him to escape again. However, Cellach’s efforts are ultimately not enough to protect Brendan or anyone else in the abbey. When a Viking raid does come, it knocks down the abbey gate and causes terrible death and destruction; Cellach is gravely injured, and Brendan only barely escapes. 

While the majority of the movie actually occurs before the Viking raid, we chose The Secret of Kells for our theme of dealing with the past because of the profound nature of what Brendan goes through after fleeing the abbey. Despite being attacked while running through the forest, he is able to survive with Aisling’s help, and ultimately finds safety and shelter. Many years pass before he is able to return to the abbey, but during this time, he grows up and finally finishes the Book of Kells. When he finally does come back, he is amazed to discover that his uncle is still alive despite his injury. Cellach is filled with guilt at having restricted his nephew so much, and still ultimately having failed to protect him, but Brendan does not blame his uncle at all and is just happy he’s recovered. Their relationship was previously fraught with tension, but upon reuniting they both finish their recovery from physical and mental scars, and mend their relationship.

Segment 3: Daughter of the Highlands

Daughter of the Highlands is a song by a band called the Old Crow Medicine Show. It seems to be narrated by the ghost of a man who had to leave to fight in a war and died in battle, leaving behind his love, Hannah. Throughout the song, the narrator sings about and sometimes directly to this woman, assuring both her and himself that they will laugh and cry and dance together again. 

However, in a sad moment of realization, he reflects on the passage of time. Hannah is no longer the young woman he left, meaning she’s lived much of her life without him. While he remains forever frozen at the age he left, she has changed and grown and moved on. Still, he seems to hope that someday, he’ll “get to town” and see Hannah again—possibly referring to when she dies and joins him in his conception of the afterlife? Or, it may just be he’s not willing to truly acknowledge he’s dead? Somewhat unclear.

Music Credits:

  • Flowers and Weeds (Acoustic Guitar & Penny Whistle) by Axletree
  • Marty Gots a Plan by Kevin MacLeod

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