In her debut memoir Now I Can See the Moon – False Memories and a Life Cut Short, Alice Tallmadge ’72 searches for answers in personal tragedy and finds them in the cultural fabric of the 1980s and 1990s— an era influenced by widespread fear for the safety of children and shifting moral values known as the Satanic Panic.
“Here I was in the middle of this phenomenon and I didn’t know what to make of it,” says Tallmadge, who felt the impacts of the Satanic Panic through the death of her niece. “The book shares what happened, introducing people to my niece and then telling the story following her death and coming to understand what happened in that era.”
Understood by scholars as a social panic, the widespread fear for the safety of children was a major cultural shift for the United States in the early 1980s, caused by a perfect storm of intersecting events: increases in reports of sexual abuse, rumors of cult activity and sensational media reports.
“This is one of those memoirs where the writing is a journey. Even the phrase ‘satanic ritual abuse’ was so distasteful to me because here I was a journalist. I like my facts; I like to check; I like my primary sources and a social panic itself is defined by sensationalism,” says Tallmadge, who has been a journalist for three decades and served as an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication until 2014. “The book is about a family experience that reflected a national phenomenon.”
At William Smith, Tallmadge majored in English and was a member of Hai Timiai. Following graduation, she earned a master’s in journalism from the University of Oregon. Throughout her career, she has reported for Oregon outlets including The Oregonian and The Oregon Quarterly. She is currently a freelance editor.
“They say that when you write a memoir, you shouldn’t know what the ending is before you begin because the writing is the journey,” says Tallmadge. “It ended up being a real emotional and spiritual journey in thinking about what I believe.”
Additional information on Tallmadge is on her website; Now I Can See the Moon is available at The College Store.