Posted in excerpt, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on June 14, 2017

Synopsis

At 46 years old, Mark Moore was in the prime of his life. He was a successful businessman, loving husband, involved father, and dedicated amateur athlete. His life was turned upside down after being hit in quick succession with two strokes that should have taken his life. After spending a month in a coma, Mark awoke to find his life forever changed, wondering if he’d ever be able to walk or speak again.

Mark’s inspiring new memoir, A Stroke of Faith: A Stroke Survivor’s Story of a Second Chance at Living a Life of Significance, follows his incredible journey from successful businessman to unexpected stroke victim and survivor. Now having made an almost-full recovery 10 years later, Mark has dedicated himself to his family, faith, extensive philanthropy within his community, and educating others about stroke awareness, prevention, and recovery.

Though his life will never return to his pre-stroke normality, through this crisis, he has gained a deeper understanding of the centrality of God’s role in his life and in all of our lives. A Stroke of Faith tells the story of moving from acceptance to surrender and from hope to faith and reveals God’s work in Mark’s life as He transformed him from thinking he had everything under control to knowing God has had control all along.

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Excerpt

Introduction

“Beyond My Control!”

WE ALL HAVE gifts of one kind or another, natural abilities that seem to flow out of the very core of who we are. For some, it’s music. They can look at a sheet of crotchet and quaver notations and hear the melody in their head as if a full symphony orchestra were playing right in front of them. Others have a knack for languages. A few lessons, and they sound like a native speaker.

I was always a numbers man. Math may not be as glamorous as melodies and words, but I never saw just a bunch of figures on a page. For me, they turned into a score or a story I could follow. A company spreadsheet could be like an x-ray, revealing all the inner problems of an ailing business. Or it might become a road map, pointing the way to prosperity. I could read columns of debits and credits like a book.

As with any innate ability, that aptitude could only take me so far. Raw sugar cane has to go through a process to release the sweetness. With application and determination, I was able to harness my gift for math in ways that transformed my life. It took me from a tough New York City borough to the leafy suburbs of Washington, DC. From a two-bedroom house into which ten of us were squeezed to a ten-thousand-square foot property with a pool.

During that climb up the ladder of success, I had raised two billion dollars in capital as I rode the financial wave of twenty-first century new technology. Overcoming some prejudice along the way, as one of a minority of successful African American entrepreneurs, I’d established a reputation as a fair but firm businessman.

Proud to be a self-made man who had a different, tailor-made suit to wear for every day of the month—a far cry from the hand-me-down wardrobe of my childhood―I had written more checks than I could remember, the largest single one for two-and-a-half million dollars.

And now I stared helplessly at the blank check that Lisa had placed in front of me. I could read the words: Pay to the Bearer, and all that. I could see the lines and the blank box where I was supposed to write the payee’s name and the amount.

But I didn’t know how to do it. Something was missing between what I knew in my brain and the pen I held in my right hand. It was like one of the bulbs had shorted out midway in a string of Christmas lights, breaking the connection and extinguishing them all. The chain was interrupted. I should have known without even thinking what needed to be done, but somehow I just could not bring to mind the steps necessary for completing the simple actions I had performed so many times previously. I froze, mentally paralyzed.

Here I was, the successful numbers man, and I could not even put two and two together.

I felt crushed, helpless. The head-down determination that had brought so many rewards was somewhere out of reach. No matter how much I gritted my teeth and concentrated, I just could not will myself to do something as basic as write a check.

To make matters worse, I could not even spring up and pace about in frustration. A lifelong athlete, I still pushed myself as hard on the basketball court in my two-hour weekly games as I did in my twelve-hour days at the office. A non-smoking non-drinker, I was in excellent shape for a man in his

mid-forties.

But now I could only sit in my wheelchair as I contemplated the chasm between what my life had been and what it was now—and might be for as long as I was alive.

That I was even breathing was something of a miracle itself. A month or so earlier I had been within minutes of dying, my life saved only by emergency surgery that opened up my skull and left me in a medically induced coma. I had, of course, been grateful to open my eyes again and see my beloved wife, Brenda, and our two children. But facing the rest of my life as a shadow of who I had been weighed heavily now.

Overwhelmed by not being able to manage such a rudimentary action, one I had performed so many times previously, I sighed.

“This is crazy,” I said. “Something so simple I’ve done it a million times, and yet it’s beyond my control!”

Sensing my discouragement, Lisa smiled brightly at me as we sat in her speech therapist’s office at Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. Dark curly-haired and petite, dressed in hospital scrubs and sneakers, she managed to sound professional and personable at the same time.

“The brain is really quite remarkable in the way it can recover from a traumatic injury like the one you have suffered, Mark,” she told me. “You are going to get better. Most of the progress in recovery usually occurs in the first year or two. And we are going to do all that we can to help.”

Though the gap between my former life and my present circumstances seemed vast, miles wide, I had been brought to its edge by something quite small: a ruptured blood vessel deep in my brain. Two strokes had pulled the curtain down firmly on the first act of my life. How the rest of my story would unfold was unclear and, for the first time I could remember, seemed beyond my control.

About the Author

Mark Moore is a philanthropist and successful businessman. Along with his wife Brenda, a former nurse, Mark has established the Mark and Brenda Moore and Family Foundation, through which he supports advances in healthcare, education, culture and the arts, and Christian evangelism. Prior to engaging full time in his philanthropic work, Mark was Chief Operating Officer and co-owner of Segovia, Inc., a leading provider of global internet protocol services to the US Defense Department. Mark is also the Mid-Atlantic Ambassador for the American Stroke Association and the author of the memoir A Stroke of Faith, which is now on sale. More about Mark and A Stroke of Faith can be found at and on Facebook and Twitter .

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Posted in excerpt, Inspirational, memoir on May 7, 2017

BENDING ANGELS

Living Messengers of God’s Love

By Jack H. Emmott

 

  Genre: Memoir / Inspirational / Faith

Publisher: Carpenter’s Son Publishing

Date of Publication: January 1, 2017

Number of Pages: 176

Struck by polio at age six, Jack H. Emmott began learning the difficult spiritual lessons embodied in paralysis, shivering loneliness, and dark despair. Fortunately, Jack had help― people of all ages he calls his “Bending Angels,” those who have spread their wings of love and inspiration to walk the journey of faith as the devastated little boy became one of Houston’s celebrated attorneys, a loyal husband, and a devoted dad. Each chapter of this book will relate the story of a Bending Angel―from Brownie, the pup, to Mr. Ochoa, the baseball coach who understood how much of a heart it takes to win and how much of a soul it takes to lose your most precious dream. This book will inspire and uplift you as Jack H. Emmott, a life-long Christian, shares his spiritual wisdom and lessons learned.

Amazon * Bending Angel Website

PRAISE FOR BENDING ANGELS

“The power of ‘Let go and let God’ is personified in this inspiring story. Also, that we are given guidance in the most unsuspected forms when we but look, and that a flood of grace is behind every surrender. What a joy.”  — Lindsay Wagneractress, author

“With gentle humor and no small amount of faith, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love tells the story of Jack Emmott’s life and of the angels who have appeared in his life, just when he needed them the most.  Do I believe in angels? Absolutely.  Was Jack himself an angel to me during the darkest period of my life?  Absolutely.”  — Debbie AdamsPast President, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Houston/Galveston; Chair, Advisory Council UTHealth School of NursingTrustee, St. Edward’s University

Bending Angel is a beautiful inspiring book about faith and prayer and the angels that surround us. Jack shared his life journey of trusting in God and drawing strength that was needed to help him. I learned a great deal from this book and have thought about it over and over again since I read it.” — Amazon reviewer

“If only I could get through a chapter without crying…very moving and touching stories.” — Amazon reviewer

 

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When You Need One the Most, God Always Sends You an Angel

Excerpt from Chapter 7 of Bending Angels

It was the first Tuesday after Labor Day, 1960. I was a boy of twelve. My first fearful day of sixth grade had arrived.

This first school day had started at seven o’clock in the morning in my childhood home in Emmottville. The whole house smelled of my mother’s breakfast cooking–eggs sunny-side up, honey-cured fried bacon, buttered toast–which my brother Charlie and I rapidly ate.

Charles and I quickly walked out the front door to Emmott Road. I had no time to waste—my short, struggling gait from polio took extra time and effort as we went down the oil-soaked shell road to the bus stop. I had to hurry to catch the yellow bus driven by Mr. Bubba Willbern.

To anyone on the outside of my life and struggles with polio, the destination of my daily school bus ride would be Post Elementary School. But as I learned that year, my daily bus ride was always and forever to be inexplicably headed somewhere else deeper in my heart and soul.

As Charles and I walked across the cattle guard, I saw the bus coming to a stop at the end of our road. I made it just in time. The bus door opened. I lifted my left leg up to the lower step of the bus. I stiffened my left leg and body so Charlie could push me up into the air to the left until my weakened right leg could swing under me by gravity alone. A pendulum amidst paralysis. An embarrassment of awkwardness viewed by a long line of onlookers at the windows on the bus. I felt like an ugly fish in a fish bowl. Then the leg-lifting process repeated itself up to the second and third steps until my two feet found the floor of the bus next to Mr. Willbern. There I stood, tired and very embarrassed. I felt unlike any other student on the bus. I was certain everyone on the bus saw that my left shoe was built up two inches higher than my right shoe. My legs were of different lengths. A bulky Milwaukee brace made of steel and leather was around my torso. The brace held me straight as my spine continued to curve with scoliosis. A white football helmet was worn on my head to protect the brain God had given me in the event my knees collapsed and my head crashed to the floor.

As I looked down the center aisle for an open seat, all the seats on the left were taken. Where would I sit? Fearing rejection and indifference, I asked myself, “Who would want to sit next to me, a crippled boy?” I looked with anguish to the other side of the bus for a place to sit.

Then, something unexpected occurred.  On the right on the sixth row of seats, I saw a sweet little girl smiling at me. She did not look away from me like the others did. She moved closer to the window. With her right hand, she patted the seat next to her inviting me to sit beside her. She looked about seven years old with wavy brown shoulder-length hair illumined with highlights from the summer sun. Her skin was tanned from playing outdoors; her eyes were as blue as the waters of the Cayman Islands. Her spirit was as peaceful, poised, gentle and cooling as a soft summer breeze on a warm afternoon. She wore a brown skirt with a plaid cotton short-sleeve blouse with a Peter Pan collar, brown leather shoes, and white cotton socks.

I sat right next to her. “Hi. I’m Cheryl.”

“I’m Jack,” I replied.

“I know you. You are the boy who has polio like my Aunt Margaret did,” she said.

I looked into Cheryl’s face again. I saw much more than a pretty, younger girl on her way to class. I unexpectedly felt whole again, like before I had polio. I somehow knew she saw me as a whole person, a child of God, and not as a crippled boy. That is the way I believed that God saw all children. “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Cheryl seemed to have that way of seeing me just as I saw her.

Author Jack H. Emmott contracted polio at the age of six.  Before polio, he knelt at his bedside with his mother Lucile and said evening prayers.  With paralysis, Jack could no longer kneel.  But he could still pray to God for guidance, comfort and healing.  The grace and love of God transformed all the bad from polio and paralysis into good.  Jack is a life-long Christian and successful family lawyer in Houston, Texas.  He is married to his wife of over forty years, Dorothy, who works alongside him in his calling.  Jack is father to two children and grandfather to three grandchildren.

Jack is the author of Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love by (Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2016) a memoir of the living angels that touched his life.  He wrote Prayerful Passages:  Asking God’s Help in Reconciliation, Separation and Divorce (Outskirts Press, 2016) to help couples in struggling marriages ask God’s help through prayer for the same guidance, comfort and healing he has received from our Almighty Father for over sixty years following polio.

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Posted in Giveaway, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on January 2, 2017

OF BULLETINS AND BOOZE

  A NEWSMAN’S STORY OF RECOVERY

by

Bob Horton

Genre: Journalism / Memoir

Publisher: Texas Tech University Press

Date of Publication: March, 2017

Number of Pages: 284

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Bob Horton began his journalism career as a reporter for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Innate skill and good fortune took him from a modest Texas farm upbringing to Washington, DC, where he was thrown into the high-pressure world of the wire service, first as a correspondent for the Associated Press, and later for Reuters news agency. The stress was intense, but he found the rush to be intoxicating.

From his early days covering the Dallas murder trial of Jack Ruby, through three colorful decades as a newsman, Horton often found himself witnessing history in the making. He covered the Pentagon during the early days of the Vietnam War, was on board a Navy ship in the Mediterranean awaiting Israel’s expected attack on Egypt, was witness to the Watergate burglary trial, and attended a Beverly Hills church service with then-President-elect Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.

The success Horton enjoyed as a journalist mostly hid the dark side of his career: a gradual descent into alcoholism. Of Bulletins and Booze candidly recounts the unforgettable moments of Horton’s career, as well as more than a few moments he would just as soon forget.

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Bob Horton has been in the news business for more than fifty years. In 1966 he received the Top Reporting Performance Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors organization, and in 1968 he and an AP cohort were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for general coverage of the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Today he is a radio news anchor with shows in Lubbock and Victoria, Texas. He lives in Lubbock.

 

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Posted in Giveaway, Interview, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on December 18, 2016

WALKING THE LLANO

  A TEXAS MEMOIR OF PLACE

by

Shelley Armitage

 

Genre: Eco-Memoir / Nature

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press

Date of Publication: February 15, 2016

Number of Pages: 216

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When American explorers arrived in the Texas Panhandle, they dubbed the region the “Great American Desert.” Its rough terrain appeared flat, dry, uninhabitable. Later, cell phone towers, oil rigs, and wind turbines added to this stereotype. Yet in this lyrical ecomemoir, Shelley Armitage charts a unique rediscovery of an unknown land, a journey at once deeply personal and far-reaching in its exploration of the connections between memory, spirit, and place.

Armitage begins her walk by following the Middle Alamosa Creek thirty meandering miles from her family farm to the Canadian River. Growing up in the small llano town of Vega, Texas, she finds the act of walking inseparable from the act of listening and writing. “What does the land say to us?” she asks as she witnesses human alterations to the landscape—perhaps most catastrophic the drainage of the land’s most precious water source, the Ogallala Aquifer.

But the llano’s wonders persist: colorful mesas and canyons, vast flora and fauna, diverse wildlife. While meditating on the region’s history, Armitage recovers the voices of ancient, Native, and Hispano peoples as interwoven with her own: her father’s legacy, her mother’s decline, a brother’s love.  The llano holds not only the beauty of ecological surprises but a renewed kinship in a world ever-changing.

Reminiscent of the work of memoirists Terry Tempest Williams and John McPhee, Walking the Llano is a soaring testimony to the power of landscape to draw us into greater understanding of ourselves and deeper connection with the places we inhabit.

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 PRAISE FOR WALKING THE LLANO

Both an intensely lyrical and intimate scrapbook of familial history and a uniquely sublime travelogue of the American Southwestern landscape” A Starred review from Kirkus

“. . .an enticing mix of memoir, nature study and the hunting of ghosts. [ Walking The Llano] is a testament to the value of slowing down and watching where you are going.” Ollie Reed, The Albuquerque Journal

. . .[Armitage] is an explorer, and from her book we learn much about people who settled [the llano] and those who must now make gutwrenching decisions about modern methods of energy extraction. . .a perfectly balanced memoir.” Kimberly Burk, The Oklahoman

“With a cleareyed appreciation for landscape and our place in it combined with uncluttered flowing writing, Armitage establishes her place in the tradition of the best American nature writing.” Mark Pendleton, INK

“Once you’ve ambled into the lyrical, evocative pages of Shelley Armitage’s ‘Walking the Llano’, the Plains will never seem plain again.” William deBuys , Author of A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest

“Shelley Armitage’s prose is as poetic as it is intelligent. She masterfully weaves together her personal story with the narrative of the Llano, and she does so in a way that begs the question of what lies ahead for the people and the land she loves. If literature is a study of the human heart—and it is—then Walking the Llano is a quiet masterpiece.” BK Loren, Author of T heft:A Novel and Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays

“In Walking the Llano, Shelley Armitage does for the Staked Plains what John McPhee did for the Northern Plains in Rising from the Plains. She carefully mines the history, character, and geology of the Llano Estacado and combines it with a compelling personal narrative to create an account that flows with lyricism, authenticity, and wisdom. A splendid and cleareyed book.” Nancy Curtis – Coeditor of Leaning into the Wind: Women Write from the Heart of the West

What kind of research did you have to do for your book?

As the book grew, I found I could bring together oral history, memory and a lifetime of interest in the natural world. I interviewed local folks about history, events and their memories of the area and also consulted university historians and archaeologists. I took a course on memoir at the UNM Writers’ Summer Conference in Taos, NM and continued research on key scholarly works on geology, geography, archaeology, history, Native American culture and the pastores. My study and certification as a  Texas Master Naturalist also was a great help.

As an academic, I love the detective work and the opportunity to incorporate a number of other scholars and writers I had read during my time teaching environmental writing and literature courses. These helped me build the case for eco­wisdom as the book became a meditation on the meaning of place.

Anything surprising you found in conducting your research?

All of it surprised me because just along this modest drainage to the Canadian had been incredible history: the major 19th century American expeditions (Abert, Whipple), major Spanish entradas (Coronado, Onate), ancient trade routes and meeting/trading places, important spring sites in a high desert landscape (one spring still flowing after 400 years), sites of Clovis and Folsom people, connections to one of the primary and oldest industries in North America ­ the Alibates Flint Quarry, last used by the Comanche.

While the book is factual and well­researched, I use the evidence of this earlier life to discuss cultural adaptations and beliefs, keys to understanding our places and our relationship to them. One thing that sticks in my mind is discovering ancient petroglyphs and pictographs on private land, sites few people would ever see. These were sacred places. What are they now? Can they be sacred to us as well? Can we recognize that we are a part of our landscapes not separate from them?

The book treats the complexities of change and consequent decision­making about our responsibilities to the natural world, questions about whether the “spirits of place” can survive development, whether concepts of beauty must be revised, how memory and story are acts of conservation.

Are there under-represented groups or ideas in your book?  If so, discuss.

Absolutely!  One of the main thrusts of Walking is to give voice to a landscape much ignored or maligned and similarly to forgotten peoples who lived there: ancient cultures, Natives such as the Antelope Creek Phase people, the Comanche and Kiowa, Hispanos who were among the first permanent settlers.  I also wanted to raise the issue of facile acceptance of the wind turbine industry which despite its green advantages can also threaten land and wildlife as well as transform places into commercial settings.  The “use” of land rather than our being in a place is an idea I address through witness and learning from the world view of other dwellers, like Native people, on the llano.  The book is an interweaving of ideas and experiences in the present, through time, and in memory.  I posit memory not as living in the past but as a way of sending meaningful stories forward.

How long did it take you to put together your memoir?

I began the hikes around 2005 and published the book in 2016. During that time, I wrote and rewrote the manuscript several times, almost giving up on it. During the hiking and discoveries, both my mother and brother passed away, like my father years before them. One of the underlying themes in the book is loss in the face of gain. Though we take this for granted now, I was unnerved, as a woman, by the prospect of being solely responsible for the farm and decisions about it as I eventually inherited it ­ alone. But the kinship I felt because of the experiences with the land comforted me and made me feel part of something larger again.

Why do you feel it’s so important to share the story of this part of the country?

My hope was to write a literary work that would not just present facts and reflections about the area, but one that would also speculate lyrically on how we can feel akin to a landscape and thus care about, protect and conserve it. We learn more about ourselves and others by rediscovering our relatedness within and to places. The book is about a specific place, long marginalized and ignored, but also a narrative and meditation that is universal in meaning. As the Navajo have observed, beauty is about being “emplaced.” My hope is that no matter where our places, we may focus our attention on them, their care. We’ve understood, perhaps most profoundly through the distant photographs by astronauts of the earth as a living, breathing cell. Up close and personal, we have a chance to realize ourselves as part of this livingness. As Eckhart Tolle has said, we can learn from nature’s stillness, its being. The degree to which we respect and care for our places is the degree to which we care for others and ourselves. The llano comforted me as well during its own changes and my personal losses.

What do you hope readers most get out of your book?

I hope readers find an appreciation and heightened awareness of what it means to truly be part of our environment rather than think of it as “other.” Thought the book is about a part of the southwest, my hope is that the ideas and experiences resonate across lives and places. As Wendell Berry has said: “There are no unsacred places, only desecrated places.” I’d like my readers to be transported and perhaps transformed by what I hope is lyric prose, so full of the cadence of poetry and how poetry means lastingly ­ how it teaches us, affects us. And that story and memory about our places and our interrelationships are acts of conservation that are not so much about a past as about the shape of the future. It’s also a book about accepting change, seeing the beauty in it and about how adventure and loss are complexly mixed. During my hikes I lost all of my family. The book chronicles those deep sadnesses and how we may grow from them, also the challenge of a woman alone inheriting a farm she must learn to manage and care for.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

To be named a Distinguished Fulbright Chair of American Literature at the University of Warsaw, representing the United States but also bonding with fellow world citizens, learning about their country. This is the highest Fulbright honor and I am still amazed that someone like me who was a graduate of state universities and a small town high school could have the privilege of such a position.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

I love this question because years ago I saw a New Yorker cartoon which I clipped and put on my office door.  Two men are in a cemetery looking at a friend’s grave and one comments to the other:  “Well, he published but he perished.”

Dr. Shelley Armitage is Professor Emerita from University of Texas at El Paso where she taught courses in literature of the environment, women’s studies, and American Studies.  She is author of eight award winning books and 50 scholarly articles.  She resides in Las Cruces, New Mexico but still manages her family farm outside of Vega, Texas.

Armitage grew up in the northwest Texas Panhandle in Oldham County.  She owns and operates the family farm, 1200 acres of native grass—once part wheat and milo—bordering Interstate 40 on the south and near the Canadian River breaks on the north.  Armitage shared this landscape from her childhood on, riding with her father and grandfather to check crops and cattle and later jogging and more recently walking the farm roads.  Though most of her adult life has been spent away from the Panhandle as a university professor, Armitage has always returned to the “farm” which offered until recently a 360-degree view of earth and sky.  Wind energy farms, oil and gas, microwave towers, and strip mining have greatly altered her childhood landscape.

Throughout her distinguished university career, Armitage’s professional life offered her a connection with landscape. Because of senior Fulbright teaching grants in Portugal and Finland, a Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American Literature in Warsaw, a Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American Studies in Budapest as well as research, writing, and teaching in Ethiopia, the American Southwest, and Hawai’i, place has taken on special meanings.  As the Dorrance Roderick Professor at University of Texas at El Paso and a Distinguished Senior Professor in Cincinnati, she decided in her most recent book to write about the meaning of home place as connected to the land’s own ecological and human stories.

As the holder of three National Endowment for the Humanities grants, a National Endowment of the Arts grant, and a Rockefeller grant, Armitage nevertheless prizes a recent recognition from the United States Department of Agriculture most highly.  Commended for her “commitment to the spirit, principles, and practices” of the Conservation Reserve Program, Armitage has restored the farm to grassland in an effort to heal fragmented landscapes by recreating wildlife corridors and habitat.  Like the fragmented narratives of stories lost, she says: “If we could read the land like a poem, we might more intimately learn from it, understand what it says of natural and human cycles—and that sometimes uneasy relationship between them.”

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Posted in excerpt, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on November 28, 2016

Title:                Sorrows & Songs:  One Lifetime – Many Lives

Author:           Janice Wood Wetzel

Pages:             255

ISBN:               978-0-9968-3010-2

 

In words as clear and sharp as cut crystal glass, the memoir Sorrows & Songs:  One Lifetime – Many Lives unflinchingly tells the story of a bright, beautiful, and promising young child who forged towards a fully realized life in spite of years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her parents and pervasive society-wide gender discrimination.

Through her account, Janice Wood Wetzel shares a range of experiences in the context of her life and times – a Depression-era childhood, World War II, a teen pregnancy and miscarriage, a 20-year marriage that produced three much loved children but ultimately ended in divorce in her late 30s, the numbing social conformity that informed the ‘50s and early ‘60s, a mental health crisis in the form of depression, a stint in a psychiatric hospital, the suicide of her father, and soon thereafter, the tragic death of her mother, and a bout with alcoholism. Finally, the mid-1960s brought hope in the form of second-wave feminism, which enlightened the world and consequently changed the author’s life.

One by one, through quiet acts of bravery, Janice Wood Wetzel broke through sexist obstacles and emerged as a civil rights pioneer, a recognized feminist and human rights researcher, strategist, and advocate, as well as a United Nations nongovernmental representative, and a highly regarded professor and Dean of Social Work.

A successful life, yes. But at a price. From a painful crucible of dreams deferred and loves lost emerged both a life of many victories and a rewarding memoir.

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Excerpt

Happy Birthday Baby

I recovered from the measles in time for my eighth birthday. In preparation, Mother suggested a birthday party breakfast for the ten little girls in the neighborhood. She and I planned the menu together. Cocoa with marshmallows, fresh squeezed orange juice, French toast, little sausage links, and of course birthday cake with pink icing—special treats in a year still scarred by the Depression. When I came downstairs on the morning of the party, I couldn’t have been more pleased. The dining room chandelier was scalloped with crepe paper, and a Happy Birthday! swag festooned the mirror over the buffet. Our best lace tablecloth for special occasions already covered the table. At each place there was a pastel nut cup filled with pastel mints and a pink snapper that promised a party hat and streamers when it popped. Near the top of the plates were small favors wrapped in paper printed with adorable kittens tumbling in ribbons. It was all I could do to wait until the guests would arrive at eleven.

They never came.

The house was empty. Dad and Barrie had gone on a father-and-son hike so that the house could be just for little girls for a few hours. Mother and I sat on the upholstered horsehair oak couch in the living room. I felt sick to my stomach; my throat had a painful lump that made it hard to swallow. Otherwise, I was numb, staring into the stillness. Finally, with resolve, Mother got up and stood directly in front of me. “It’s not about you,” she assured me, “It’s about me.” She went on, “I don’t fit in this one-horse town. All of their mothers are common. They’re all jealous of me.”

I knew what she said wasn’t true, but I wasn’t sure if she believed it. I breathed, “It’s not your fault.” I was grateful to her for trying to make me feel better, but it really didn’t help. “I wish I could hurt for you so that you wouldn’t have to,” she said, her face contorted with pain. It made me want to cry. My chest and my throat ached unbearably. We went into the dining room and picked at the French toast that she made for us and then quietly cleaned up. We made small talk, pretending everything was all right.

Two hours later, Barbara, a little girl who lived across the street, rang the front doorbell. “I can’t stay. Here. This is for Janice.” She handed my mother a present for me. Mother urged her to come in while she called her mother. I sat immobilized, the pain of humiliation and rejection seeping into my pores. “Please let Barbara stay for some birthday cake,” she pleaded on the telephone. “My daughter’s so disappointed.” The answer was no. I had no idea then that my parents’ drinking at the umbrella table in the back yard and Mother passing out in the yard were probably the reasons for the neighborhood boycott. Somehow, even today it doesn’t make me feel better to realize it, nor am I fully convinced that I wasn’t personally rejected by the little girls on my street. It’s a scar that is still tender to the touch.

*Excerpt from Sorrows & Songs: One Lifetime – Many Lives by Janice Wood Wetzel©

About the Author

Janice Wood Wetzel is a professor emerita and former dean of social work who has served as a United Nations nongovernmental representative in New York since 1988. She is a well-published international educator and researcher who specializes in the human rights, mental health, and advancement of women from a global perspective. The mother of three and grandmother of four, Janice has lived all over the United States. For the past 27 years, her home has been on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

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