UT grad student publishes novel, speaks about personal trauma, coping

Jennifer Errico

Jane Fleming found beauty in her darkness.

Fleming, an English graduate student and Rhetoric 306 assistant instructor, published her first full-length novel, “Violence/Joy/Chaos” at age 27.

Fleming said she wanted to write the book she wished she had as a young undergraduate student when coping with the aftershocks of sexual assault and living in a toxic, abusive relationship. 

“It would have made me feel less alone, less isolated to know other people are experiencing these things,” Fleming said.

“Violence/Joy/Chaos” is a collection of essays and poems exploring Fleming’s trauma and the rocky road to healing and recovery. The collection is a reflection of the dark period during her early 20s while she was an undergraduate student at William & Mary University and after she transferred to UT-El Paso.  

“I organized (the book) in a linear timeline from the earliest essays to the latest,” Fleming said. “However, the recovery process is not a … line from broken to healed. It’s interspersed with moments of joy and moments of chaos.”   

Fleming said she turned toward unhealthy ways of coping in college such as self-medicating, drinking and excessive partying because she felt like she had no one to open up to. 

“Things that seemed normal for the college experience were ways of me covering it up and coping,” Fleming said.

She said she allowed herself to have moments of silence to write out about the experiences she couldn’t talk about.  

“Trauma lives in the gaps, and you have to listen to the silence to start the healing process,” Fleming said.

Writing allowed her to put language, whether it be poetic or lyrical, to what she was going through and what she was processing, she said. 

“(Writing) helped me feel like it was something that was a part of me, but really didn’t define me,” Fleming said. “It was just part of my journey.

“Violence/Joy/Chaos” was published by Rhythm & Bones Press, a small, independent publisher in Pennsylvania founded by Tianna G. Hansen. Hansen said her press focuses on “trauma-turned-art” stories to present a safe haven for taboo stories and topics such as rape, mental illness and sexual assault. Hansen was also Fleming’s editor.

“I’ve been through a lot of trauma myself,” Hansen said. “I’ve been in abusive relationships and I had a lot of family trauma, so the whole basis of the press was for other people to feel like they’re not alone. I wanted to give a face to all these voices.”

Hansen said she felt connected to Fleming’s story and how she came out on the other side of her trauma.

“Violence/Joy/Chaos” didn’t just unite Hansen and Fleming. Fleming’s brother Jordan Aman said it also strengthened their relationship. 

Aman designed the cover of “Violence/Joy/Chaos.” He said the image is supposed to be a representation of the peace one can find after violence and chaos.

“The birds are swallows because, symbolically, swallows are messengers,” Aman said. “I’m playing on the idea of the connection to your higher consciousness allowing you to be self-reflective and pave the pathway to healing.”

Fleming said she hopes, through her book, people will find comfort in knowing they are not alone.  

“I’m hoping (“Violence/Joy/Chaos”) will reach a demographic of young women of all ages, especially those who are going to college and who have experienced trauma, (and help them) see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Fleming said.