I'Ve Had To Think Up A Way To Survive: On Trauma, Persistence, And Dolly Parton

Melnick, Lynn

The first time Lynn Melnick listened to a Dolly Parton song in full, she was 14 years old, in the triage room of a Los Angeles hospital, waiting to be admitted to a drug rehab program. Already in her young life as a Jewish teen in the 1980s, she had been the victim of rape, abuse, and trauma, and her path to healing would be long. But in Parton’s words and music, she recognized a fellow survivor.

In this powerful, incisive work of social- and self-exploration, Melnick blends personal essay with cultural criticism to explore Parton’s dual identities as feminist icon and objectified sex symbol, identities that reflect the author’s own fraught history with rape culture and the arduous work of reclaiming her voice. Each chapter engages with the artistry and impact of one of Parton’s songs, as Melnick reckons with violence, misogyny, creativity, parenting, friendship, sex, love, and the consolations and cruelties of religion. Bold and inventive, I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive gives us an accessible and memorable framework for understanding our times and a revelatory account of survival, persistence, and self-discovery.