Haunted By A Success Story


For many decades I have been fascinated by those people who populate my internal memorex of what Joseph Campbell refers to as our only true cultural heroes, the "catalysts for change." And, days later, I am haunted by a quote from your March 24 cover story of recovering addict Linda Navarro, "For me to grow up and go to law school was very bizarre, aberrant behavior. I was supposed to be a prostitute, or end up in jail for being a chronic shoplifter or bank robber, or go to prison or marry some guy who beat me up all the time, or drink myself to death."

From 1977 to 1982, Linda Navarro and her son, Amilcar, were a part of one of my extended family communities in Seattle. As with many others I've been privileged to know, something about her evoked the spirit of the phoenix rising from the ashes of destruction. I knew her as a co-worker who was diligent and dedicated in her defense of the rights of young people. When she encountered a social worker or member of the criminal justice system who was exercising a one-dimensional, surface analysis of a situation, she had the depth-perception that provided an uncanny clarity/ readout.

I knew her as a poor, black single mom encountering sexism/racism/ classism at the University of Washington Law School. Women had passed that way before but none of her ethnic-socio-economic stature. Several members of our household provided child care for her son throughout that era. I was more than a little in awe of this woman who had the fortitude to travel by bus to our home, drop her child off, and grab another bus to the U-district for school. And then repeat the process on the way home. For years! AND, she held down a job! When did she study? How did she do it?

I haven't seen Linda Navarro in almost a decade. And yet I began to sob when I saw her arrest on the nightly news. The one golden thread that characterizes the warp and the woof of the tapestry of her existence, from birth, is courage. Over and over, she came up out of the ashes of no parenting, no nurturing, no emotional support - no foundation whatsoever! Only the in-utero legacy of addiction and a childhood of physical/emotional and sexual abuse. I am haunted not only by Linda's courageous example of the human spirit to surmount the insurmountable but her courage of conviction exercised in daily life. I never knew her to be without integrity.

Thank you for your excellent article by Linda Keene. For the first time, Linda Navarro received the respect she deserved in print. Yet I am haunted by it. There is simply no way to connect the dots. In a culture that dangles the "carrot of opportunity" and continually offers up the illusion of the brass ring, Linda Navarro need not apply? - Joy Judith Graybill Woodinville