Many children and young adults purposely repress the negative experiences of their childhood or of their parents or ancestors to move on or to form an identity separate from that of their elders. While repression and avoidance or ignorance may seem the best route of separation or the best way to mark one’s own individuality, one simply cannot avoid the past or form a new past. One’s childhood experiences or parents’ experiences will always have happened, will always be a part of history and of one’s being. As depicted in Black Rainbow, one cannot fully erase the past because it will always find a way to resurface. And the repressing and resurfacing often ends in the past repeating itself, most likely through a more horrible or more emotionally testing experience.
However, those who can find a means of accepting or learning from past experiences can grow and travel internally. In the place of repression, this form of inner travel allows one to build upon and work with the identity that cannot be erased. Like Marco Polo in Invisible Cities, whose physical and mental travel provides him with the numerous opportunities to view his past and his Venice in multiple different ways, those who choose not to ignore the past can find, through different life experiences, a new way of viewing the past, a new way of accepting or understanding what may have seemed a horrible, sad, shameful, or confusing experience. In seeing the past through a new perspective, one can then officially move on or fully seek individuality and an identity separate from past restraints. This method of reviewing and accepting the past can apply to everyone, even to those who do not experience extremely negative situations. One just needs to find his or her own way of making the internal journey that incorporates the past, the present, and even the future.
Sia Figiel’s They Who Do Not Grieve proves, through the character of the girl-young woman of Malu, that one can escape from the constraints of the past, that one can turn her ancestor’s shameful and emotionally draining experiences into a positive future. Malu, who at first comes off as shy and embarrassed or ashamed, manages to escape the reality of her grandmother and of her mother and discover her own reality, her own imagination. Through this imagination, she builds a powerful identity that distinguishes her from the other female members of her family, the identity of a female that is not ashamed to love passionately and procreate. Malu recognizes that she can have the power to change and direct her future, that her family history will not inhibit her growth because she has her own ideas and beliefs. The young woman recognizes, through her created reality, her true purpose.
In accepting the shameful past of her female ancestors, Malu is different from her grandmother, mother, and aunts because she is willing to learn from their mistakes and to build off of them to create a promising future. In choosing, in the end, to birth her bastard child to a positive atmosphere, an atmosphere of acceptance and praise, Malu proves that she is willing to turn the negative experiences of her predecessors into something great: she is willing to offer her child the opportunity to have a voice and to have an identity, things that she, as a child, continuously struggled for. Malu sets in motion for her family a new generation of females, a generation that will produce fruitful rather than shameful experiences. Following the idea of the tattoo that gives her her name, Malu becomes like a tattoo on her family’s history, a changing point in the family’s overall journey. She becomes, for her family and her family’s history, a female symbol of growth and newly discovered strength, a symbol of the family’s past as well as it’s positive future.