Albany native pens memoir about sisters death, speaks to students
By Era BushatiStaff Writer [email protected] “Her rapist untwined us,” Christa Parravani said last Thursday of the incident that stole her twin sister’s life.At the University at Albany, the first stop of her book tour promoting the memoir Her, Parravani engaged with the audience in a touching and enthralling Q & A led by Donald Faulkner, Director of the New York State Writers Institute.
The project, which took three years to complete, is a labor of love — a living tangible memory of her sister’s life, joys and troubles.
In the book, Parravani, a native of Albany, documents the unbearable grief, confusion and hurt that accompanies the death of a sibling, felt double fold when it is the death of an identical twin sister.
“It is a remarkable memoir, emotionally rough-edged and quite spiritually interesting,” said Faulkner of the book.
For this project, Parravani, who identifies as a photographer, took a step away from the camera and focused on the written word.
She had spent most of her young adult life expressing herself through photography, but the transition to writing was smooth and natural.
“It came as a relief for me because photography is kind of a collaboration,” said Parravani, You have to rely on other people to show up, to stand in front of your camera and to be able to have the privilege to sit by myself, to be alone, it was really good for me. It felt like a really safe and comfortable place to spend my time. I wanted to be as close to her as I could and that was through doing the thing that she had done, writing.”
The title of the book derives from the title of her sister Cara’s college thesis, a novel about identical twins.
“So really it was about the two of us,” she said. “And I thought that it was the perfect title for this book. It was my way, I think, of giving Cara this book even though her name isn’t on the front cover. I wanted her to have that.”
After the rape, Cara was never the same again. “I felt as if my sister had been taken away from me,” Parravani said. In 2003, the rapist, Edgardo Hernandez was sentenced to 139 years in prison.
“I was in the courtroom. I went to the trial. She testified against him. She said ‘the day that Edgardo Hernandez raped me was the day that I died.’ And I do believe that was true. I think that it took him five years to kill my sister and that he is serving a just sentence.”
Five years after the rape, Cara died from a drug overdose. The next day, Parravani said, blinded by mad grief, she too followed her in twin’s self-destructive behaviors and her life unravelled before her.
Amidst harmful behavior and suicidal intentions, Parravani had to come to terms with her sister’s death. Through writing Cara’s story, Parravani was able to piece her own life back together and bring to life a book that documents her sorrow as well as personal triumph.
The memoir, released last week, has been met with praise.
“There was nothing I wanted more in the world than to finish this book in a successful way,” Parravani said. As she continues her book tour on a ten day trip to the west coast, success seems very likely to follow at her heel.
The book, a love note to her twin, a recounting of an inseparable bond, is already a success in the eyes of many.