How do you go about caregiving for an ill and elderly parent with a lifelong history of abuse and control, intertwined with expressions of intense love and adoration? How do you reconcile the resulting ambivalence, fear, and anger?
Welcome to Wherever We Are is a meditation on what we hold onto, what we let go of, how we remember others and ultimately how we’re remembered. Deborah Cohan shares her story of caring for her father, a man who was simultaneously loud, gentle, loving and cruel and whose brilliant career as an advertising executive included creating slogans like “Hey, how ‘bout a nice Hawaiian punch?” Wrestling with emotional extremes that characterize abusive relationships, Cohan shows how she navigated life with a man who was at once generous and affectionate, creating magical coat pockets filled with chocolate kisses when she was a little girl, yet who was also prone to searing, vicious remarks like “You’d make my life easier if you’d commit suicide.”
In this gripping memoir, Cohan tells her unique personal story while also weaving in her expertise as a sociologist and domestic abuse counselor to address broader questions related to marriage, violence, divorce, only children, intimacy and loss. A story most of us can relate to as we reckon with past and future choices against the backdrop of complicated family dynamics, Welcome to Wherever We Are is about how we might come to live our own lives better amidst unpredictable changes through grief and healing.
About the Author
Deborah J. Cohan is an associate professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. Alongside her many academic publications, she is the author of the popular blog “Social Lights” for Psychology Today.
“With scrupulous honesty, and what Deborah so beautifully calls “tender curiosity,” this is a journey toward reconciliation with the ambivalence she felt towards an emotionally abusive father. She winds up with love. Her memoir is an inspiration.”
— Abigail Thomas
“Cohan’s beautifully-nuanced book is an important addition to a distinctly American strain of memoir that seeks to fully explore family dynamics with all of its complications, glories, travails, and facing of mortality. This is a slice of life that is both wide and deep.”
— Sue William Silverman
“Welcome to Wherever We Are is a memoir of a difficult family, a relationship between a father and a daughter. It involves abuse, dislike, love and a great deal of caring. It is a memoir, but one guided by the sociological lens of writer Deborah Cohan. She offers us a personal story set in the context of complicated family relationships in contemporary American society.”
"Love the sinner, hate the sin: thus, unfurls Cohan's memoir. Fractional love and uncomfortable rage toward her father blend with her longing for his abusive behavior to disappear and leave only the often extraordinary father. Cohan's crystalline honest prose brings the reader inside the dilemma of caring for an aging parent who brought her torment laced with love and magic--what is it like to adore, fear, and protect yourself from the father you feared and cherished?"
"Deborah Cohan has written a brave and beautiful memoir….not ‘beautiful’ in the sense of pretty or lovely or sugarcoated in any way. Beautifully written, yes, but also beautiful in its raw, graphic honesty—that is, in the sense that truth is beauty. There is much hard-won wisdom in these pages--wisdom gleaned from Cohan’s years of caregiving for an abusive parent--and it will benefit those who find themselves navigating that rocky terrain. But this is also a story about life and death, love and loss, and the complicated nature of family and relationship. Which makes Welcome to Wherever We Are a universal story, one with wisdom for us all."
"Cohan tells her personal journey while weaving in her expertise as a sociologist and domestic abuse counselor to address broader questions related to marriage, violence, divorce, only children, intimacy and loss. Most people deal with at least one of these issues. The book explores how people could live better amidst unpredictable changes through grief and healing."
— Cleveland Jewish News
"In this engrossing memoir, sociologist Deborah Cohan candidly describes her struggle caring for her aging father, who, as she was growing up, was at once kind and cruel. Undoubtedly, readers will be able to relate to Cohan’s explorations into the complexities of family, evolving relationships, and complicated emotions."