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The Blessing Next to the Wound: A Story of Art, Activism, and Transformation Paperback – May 19, 2010


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Review

This aptly titled book draws a spiritual path to transcend physical and psychic wounds, whether they come from political persecution, domestic abuse, gang violence, exile, or poverty. In this remarkable and powerful personal narrative, Hector Aristizabal portrays his own transformation from a torture victim to a spiritual guide strong enough, artistic enough, and, ultimately, blessed enough, to lift other lost souls into the light. --Sue William Silverman, author, Fearless Confessions and Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You<br /><br />Here we have a 'must read' as the military base at Palanquero, Colombia is taken over by the United State Air Force. Hector personifies the suffering of the Colombian people. But the biophilic love of life overcomes the necrophilic love of death and power, as the victims of torture, the victims of crass and brutal violence, elevate their suffering by seeing the world through eyes that have not yet been born. --Blase Bonpane, Director, Office of the Americas<br /><br />Psychologist, internationally known actor, human rights activist. Any of these vocations could be a life's work but Hector Aristizábal's life's work encompasses all three. Here is an intimate view of his coming of age in the complex and violent society of Medellín, Colombia, and how his experiences gave him insight and compassion faced with the complex and violent society he found as an immigrant to the U.S. I have witnessed just a small part of his work: bringing hope and healing to those who like him are survivors of torture. This book now offers his dramatic story along with his powerful ideas of healing, art, and advocacy to a wider audience. --José Quiroga, M.D., founder and medical director, Program for Torture Victims

Here we have a 'must read' as the military base at Palanquero, Colombia is taken over by the United State Air Force. Hector personifies the suffering of the Colombian people. But the biophilic love of life overcomes the necrophilic love of death and power, as the victims of torture, the victims of crass and brutal violence, elevate their suffering by seeing the world through eyes that have not yet been born. --Blase Bonpane, Director, Office of the Americas

Psychologist, internationally known actor, human rights activist. Any of these vocations could be a life's work but Hector Aristizábal's life's work encompasses all three. Here is an intimate view of his coming of age in the complex and violent society of Medellín, Colombia, and how his experiences gave him insight and compassion faced with the complex and violent society he found as an immigrant to the U.S. I have witnessed just a small part of his work: bringing hope and healing to those who like him are survivors of torture. This book now offers his dramatic story along with his powerful ideas of healing, art, and advocacy to a wider audience. --José Quiroga, M.D., founder and medical director, Program for Torture Victims

About the Author

Hector Aristizábal was born and raised in Medellín, Colombia when it was the most dangerous city in the world. One of his brothers was seduced by the power of crack cocaine and another by the promises of revolutionary armed struggle. Hector's path was different. He worked his way out of poverty to become a theatre artist and pioneering psychologist with a Masters degree from Antioquia University, then survived civil war, arrest, and torture at the hands of the US-supported military. In 1989, violence and death threats forced him to leave his homeland. Since arriving in the US, he has won acclaim and awards as an artist and also received a second Masters degree, in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pacific Oaks College, leading him to combine his training in psychology and the arts with lessons gained from life experience in his therapeutic work. As an activist, he uses theatrical performance as part of the movement to end torture and to change US policy in Latin America. His nonprofit organization, ImaginAction, taps the power of creativity in social justice programs throughout the US and around the world as far afield as Afghanistan, India, and Palestine for community building and reconciliation, strategizing, and individual healing and liberation.
Diane Lefer is an author, playwright, and activist whose most recent short-story collection, California Transit, was awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and published by Sarabande Books. She is also the author of two other collections Very Much Like Desire and The Circles I Move In, as well as the novel, Radiant Hunger. Her fiction has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the City of Los Angeles, and the Library of Congress. For 23 years she taught in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and has been a guest artist at colleges, writing conferences and festivals. She has facilitated creative workshops for high school students, adjudicated youth in lockup and on probation, and children in the foster-care system. Diane's ongoing collaboration with Hector Aristizábal includes work for the stage and for the page, and social-justice action workshops. She is a frequent contributor of articles to LA Progressive.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Lantern Books (May 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590561716
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590561713
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,650,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Rivers on June 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
When I teach my graduate course on Theater and Social Transformation, the first article I have my students read is Diane Lefer's interview with Hector Aristizabal in The Sun Magazine. My students are usually interested to find out more. I was therefore delighted to discover that Hector Aristizabal has, in conjunction with Diane, written a whole book on his life experiences, his philosophy, his activism and his art.

Put simply, the Blessing Next to the Wound is a magnificent, exhaustive and beautifully wrought guidebook to Hell. It reaches beyond the normally imagined boundaries of lived experience into farthest reaches of human suffering and oppression, depicting the unspeakable and the unsufferable--chaos, madness, agony and injustice--with a steady hand, a calm voice and a clear eye.

The book itself opens up like a huge wind, carrying you, and talking to you like the spirit of an intimate friend whom you know is whispering an urgent message, sharing a burning truth.

Also present in this story are the spirits of many other voices of those who have been erased from history, those who suffered the torments of Hell, but did not live to speak.

For that alone, this book is powerful and important, an act of witnessing and memorial. But it is more than that: accusation, history, testimony, grieving, and manual for rebirth and transformation.

In one of many beautiful passages in this book, Hector speaks of refusing to let go of his connection to humanity while being tortured, through his love and concern for his brother, also being held and tortured.

Anyone who has any interest in social justice, activism, human rights, or the present condition of humanity should read this book.
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This is a sincere and strong account of the author's personal and political struggles in his native country, Colombia. A realistic account from Mr. Aristizabal's perspective of many events occurring in this South America country from his youth until he was forced as an adult, to leave. In the USA he found his calling as a Psychologist in helping fellow victims of abuse and torture. His method for cure is based on theatrical performances. Readers should be aware there are some strong passages that may upset some readers, but I feel this is worth the effort to share in an unique journey.
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By R on November 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I was lucky enough to meet this man in person recently, and find him an absolute inspiration. He taught me so much in a very short space of time, and I managed to see Nightwind live. It takes someone very special to channel such pain into art - as I said to him, it is the greatest form of vengeance.
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By Amanecer on August 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hector's experience and character has shaped him to be a transformation figure. His work is critical in reshaping a world where humans influence each other to abuse and murder their own kind. My hat is off to Hector. This book belongs in every ruling body/power group employee's memory.
AKA Ricardo Ali Fernandez
Author "La Taza Azul"
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