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Two Lives of Annie McGraw: Transcending Adversity.
A book by Sherris Madden Neary
Forward By Brother Joshua Seidl, SSP
Are children as resilient as their abusers say? Do they forget as the self-absorbed, apathetic, and beaten down spouse parent wish they would be? Or, do they become deaf, dumb and blind as in the 1969 rock opera Tommy by the music group, The Who? Sharris Neary’s poem, Strength in Weakness, gives voice to pain as truth breaks through the silent barriers of domestic abuse.
“I stay the same age I was in the crib,” confesses another adult in Neary’s poem, Conversation With Myself. We all have a child within, that being our childhood. Neary touches that child. Every hand, by nature, contains salt that can sting these raw grazed hearts and other wounds. This is true even for the most delicate and caring hand reaching to heal. The momentary sting is welcomed if it is from one who can be trusted. What of those who pour salt into the wound not for any healing properties, but because they know it will hurt?
Neary speaks for those who put on the fine dresses and coats their abusive husbands bought them. One thinks of those ladies with sunglasses to veil the black eyes makeup can’t cover. A stubborn wounded pride will not surrender to sound reason and positive purpose, but covers up. The little children, the unwanted mistakes, put on a strong front. Yet, they imagine themselves walking with arms crossed above the waist nursing a stomach punched by words.
We hear of that in families, in Churches and in civic organizations. We may or not be aware of who among our acquaintances are like those in these stories. I was honored when I was asked to sum things up for Neary’s book. I felt it was imperative to publish these stories as much for the topics as for her excellent delivery and writing style.
Auntie Sherry, as I call the author, shared her first published work with me, Lorraine. It is one of the most powerful pro-life presentations I have ever read. It does not carry on as one might expect of a pro-life story, but I am certain most readers can see how it is a life topic. The issues are not limited to the moment and means that a baby leaves a womb. The ugly, shameful secrets hidden behind many doors in our communities initiate the domino effect that ends up harming or killing the innocent ones. We see how the good can be transformed to evil. These stories also show how wrong can be reformed to accomplish good. Thus, I have come to see in my own way, many reasons for Neary’s subtitle for this book, Transcending Adversity.
In Medicine Pouch, Neary writes of the protagonist: Wearing a flimsy see-through purple blouse … her eyes swept the room: a predator stalking her prey.
Within, however, is a heart haunted from when someone preyed upon her as a child. She subconsciously seeks a prey that will swallow her.
These stories are provocative with a positive goal in mind. They prod the consciousness with promise to develop in positive living ways. They are not written to disparage, but rather with hope. They are written by someone who dedicated her time and career so that those who once crawled and wept, will now dance and leap and laugh from joy. They pull out soul-searching questions aimed at positive development.
Neary dangles possible answers in her composition in the story, The Lesson.
Native American story telling more often than not has abrupt, unsolved endings like we read in Lorraine and some other works by Neary. Lorraine’s dilemma is dumped in the hearer’s lap without resolve and without articulating a moral to the story. We, the readers, suddenly find ourselves holding this unfinished saga. We cannot go back and have the story re-written and sanitized. Nothing prepared any of us to hold the young daughter Maddie back and shield her eyes and ears from what just took place. Like Maddie, we can only move forward. How? Can you or I reason with Max without increasing his wrath?
Getting involved is a serious risk to ourselves and as well as to little Maddie and women in Lorraines situation.
These stories heal. They offer hope for those groping in and from dark places. For those of us who are fortunate to have had secured upbringings, marriages and families, Neary sheds light on what some of our neighbors might be going through. There are abusive Maxes and beaten down Lorraines in all walks of life, and in every economy, race and religions. It takes the healthy and it takes those who been there and crawled into a new light to recognize the signs and to learn the best means to intervene and break the wretched cycle of generational abuse. It is unfair to excuse the abused who becomes an abuser; but understanding the signs can lead us to the correct methods of intervention.
Prayer is powerful, but it necessitates that we do; that we act. Protesting outside abortion clinics might have saved a few. Rooting out the domestic causes of abuse is a preventative measure that will save countless more, the unborn and those unwanted, unappreciated and those born to be abused. Love is not always lacking. Rather it is twisted and distorted. Understanding the reasons does not lesson the pain. Self-righteous chastising clichés, in many cases, is in itself a link in the chain of abuse.
Neary has another unique gift in writing, and that is in her descriptive character development. I am delighted with her description of six Church ladies packed like tomatoes into a blue sedan. The Prophet and prayer brings them together to make the journey in faith, but each lady is there for her own purpose and need, because of their own unique personal histories, seeking something, someone or some answer for themselves. Their reasons are personal to each individual, yet a common faith enticed them to travel together.
Available from Amazon in paperback, from Barnes And Nobles in paperback and Nook, iTunes, and through Lulu.com.
Great insight to consider for your next story
I like to use Natural Reader software to read my text to voice back to me. It is amazing to find errors I did not see due to dyslexia and because I’ve gone over the piece so many times, the error is not obvious to me, the author.
This will not replace the need for another proof reader, but I am able to catch more before I turn the selection over to another person.
Did she wear a red dress, or redress? I pick up on the oddity when my own story is read back to me. I can pause Natural Reader and make the correction on the manuscript MS Word Document.
You can try it free at Natural Voice. copy and paste a paragraph of your work and play it back. There are four different levels to chose from if you decide to download. I recommend the free one to get started with. If you like it, you can upgrade. I purchased the “personal.” I find it is all I need. But, the other packages are great if you want to do more with your stories, record them and what ever.
Most schools would not dare credit the longest war in history with the Americas.
The Congress of the United States illegally (immorally for those who feel an unjust law makes it legal) stole more land from Native Americans and gave it to a mining company on December 5, 2014.
The general thought on turning over the little bit of land Native Americans still own vary some. Two popular untruths are (1) No one lives there; and (2) It’s a good deal for the Natives. These things are believed by those not involved and with nothing to lose.
The fair thing would be to condemn land and forcibly remove non-Natives from their towns, cities and farms. After all, they hold 95% of the land and can well afford to use their own resources for the things they want. Let mining poisons contaminate their water systems and land.
The owners of the mining firms must also be forced to relocate their families into the mining waste run-off areas.
Typically, these mining ventures promise to pay college education and share royalties. It never happens. The mining companies belly up, go bankrupt and end up never having to pay a dime of their promises.
This is happening in every country of what is called the Americas, Brazil, Mexico, USA and Canada. It is still happening in New Zealand and Australia. No wonder USA, Canada, Australia refuses to sign the U.N. Indigenous rights charter.
Christmas day one year in the late 1990’s the Mexican army conducted a raid on a village of Indians, killing every man woman and child. Imagine, on Christmas morning; (not that there is a proper morning to practice genocide.) Oh, and every American who thinks illegal drugs are just fine or uses them …. as far as I’m concerned, you are personally responsible for that Christmas raid.
Writing serials came about without my fully realizing that was what I did with my two novels, Hawk Dancer and Cloudburst. My intentions, in producing the companion follow up book, Cloudburst, was simply to fill in material about some minor characters as well as to build on my original cast of major characters from Hawk Dancer. Effectively, I created a set of two serial novels.
Book one included John Macias, a minor character that had been alluded to earlier in the book, but not positively identified until the final quarter of the novel in an unexpected twist in one of the plots.
Book two, Cloudburst, gave more background on John while bringing out more about the major characters. This later book overlaps the period of Hawk Dancer and advances to story to 2010. (Book 1 covers the years 1934-1978 and #2 shows 1964 – 2010; mostly the same characters.)
I began the Birch Clump Village Reader series by request. Some readers wanted to know more about select characters. I accomplished this via several short stories beginning with the book EMERALD RISING: BIRCH CLUMP VILLAGE READER, 1. The series of Village Readers allows me to produce three types of short stories. Some are complete on their own. Others are a set of stories feature a particular character, though other players from the novels are involved. The third type are serial short stories. All three story types are in each Village Reader.
Fishing Hole is my first mystery serial, thus far in three segments. The first part, in the book EMERALD RISING: BCVR 1, ends as a cliffhanger. Amos Crow, the protagonist in Fishing Hole, is in a dangerous life-threatening situation.
I backtrack to the day of his birth eighteen years earlier in the second Village Reader, but I did not revisit his harrowing experience until BCVR Village Reader #3. Even then, the readers do not know if Amos Crow made it out alive, died, or met up with still more harrowing experiences. Fishing Hole Part Two centers on the search for Amos Crow.
The fourth BCVR lets us know what actually became of Amos Crow. Many of the illustrations, by the way, are by me.
The other serials found in the Birch Clump Village Readers are short stories marking the milestones and ventures of select characters from the novels. Dean Thompson is one example. We followed his life from 1951 to around 1973 or 74 in the companion novels, Hawk Dancer and Cloudburst. Notations at the end of Hawk Dancer lets us know Dean is married as of 2001 and has three children and a grandchild on the way.
The Village Readers brings him into a few short stories that fill in the 1974-2001 gaps. The same is done for Jig Rajan, Erik Fern and others.
Author Louise Erdrich is my influence to present several short stories as a novel. Instead of an all-out novel made up of short stories, however, I do this with a series of Village Readers. Like Erdrich, my cast of characters is drawn from several cultures, Aboriginal, Euro-American and Metis (mixed race).
A short story from my book, Christmas Suprise: Birch Clump Village Reader
Sins of the Italians
This a letter written by Brother Moses from Assisi, Italy to the Franciscan Friars of the Congregation of St. James in Birch Clump, Michigan. The letter was dated, Saturday December 4, 2005. This presents an amusing look at multi-culturalism.
Dear Brother Rubin
Our younger brothers struggle with Italian, but with greater success than I. This Assisi Charism study will depend on them.
I’m going nut-so on this Italian language! These wonderful people want to help out so much, but in ways I cannot relate to. I simply cannot learn according to their lesson plans or whatever their teaching method is. Classes at the Italian state run school, similar to our ESL (English as a Second Language) are three hours a day, five days a week. Compare that to a normal college course of three hours a week. By the third day we’ve received the equivalence of three weeks study and I haven’t figured out day one; week one. We are currently in what I think is our eighth week.
I think my linguistic learning ability collapsed under the pressure.
I can read and understand articles and prepositions already in place. I simply cannot fill in the blanks for these things on my own regarding any of this stuff. And there is no break.
The usual question each afternoon upon entering the Friary is, “Come Vai?”
This is followed with inquiries as to how studies are coming along. The only answer they want from me is, “Ba-bene.” (Very well).
I want to say, “Disastroso.”
Once, at a meal with only older Italian Friars, I answered, “Nervoso.”
Most drew back. The one who spoke excellent English understood and corrected me, “Agitado.”
Apparently, “I’m nervous,” in Italian, sounds like I’m deranged. Agitated has a softer sound to them.
At morning and mid-day meal I understand a fair portion of what is directed to me slow and carefully, provided I can hear them with my failing ears. But, it takes me a few moments to mentally digest the message and respond. God forbid that there is a pause in a conversation. So someone jumps in and translates for me (I don’t always need the sentence or question translated).
Arguments break out among the non-Italian Friars and seminarians because someone spoke to me in English. “No, no English, only Italian – he will not learn Italian if you speak English.”
The Italians, themselves, are far more patient and understanding. Maybe the foreigners are jealous they had to learn Italian and they might think I’m lazy and getting preferential treatment.
I wish knew the Italian equivalent to: “That’s a crock of shit.”
[I later learned, “Si tratta di un coccio di merda.” The Italians loved my response to those foreign Friars once I learned to say it smoothly.]
Once, an Argentinian Friar came all the way across the dining hall after hearing a bit of English rise from our table. “When I come to you country I speak you language. In Italy, speak Italian.”
He gave a surprised look. “Perdono?”
I went on in the Anishinabe language.
His look conveyed he was totally confused and surprised hearing a language with not a single word resembling English, Italian or Spanish. So I switched to English, “I’m sorry. I thought you said you speak my language when you visit my country. We speak Anishinabemowin, the language of the Indigenous in my region, my country. I have never known a visiting foreign Priest to learn our language, much less know or care about our existence.”
He swished his sissified self to his table. Everyone nearby busted up laughing once a translation was provided on what just took place. “Prima – Bravo – eccellente” I understood those words.
I repeat, “Solo Scriptorous!”
Thousands of immigrants come to the USA and learn English while still maintaining their sanity by speaking their old language when they can. I realize speaking anything other than Italian at a Roman table can be divisive, but an occasional explanation in English, if I ask for one or not, should not cause such uproar.
We have two huge Polish Friars here that are built like brick outhouses. I speak German with one of them and no one becomes unglued about that. I have a small working knowledge of Polish I experiment with as well. The Polish Friar comes right out and uses English because he wants to hear a little bit about who I am, and he wants me to understand him.
It seems as if three very large people (two of them being weight lifters) speaks something other than Italian in front of the foreign friars, no one questions their choices in language. I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Philipinos, 1:28, “Do not be afraid of your opponents.”
The smaller, dark skinned, gentler ones who might slip up and say something to me in English get verbally pounced on in a flash. No one addresses me in this rude manner; – they just go after the small guys. Well, not that I’m tall, as anyone knows. They don’t back off until I lean over with a nasty look on my face. Hell, this is like a grade school playground, except most of the kids are in their thirties, and some like me, over forty and fifty are supposed to be religious. The aggressors apologize to me instead of to the ones they insulted.
You knew me in my earlier days. Nothing would have been more satisfying that to deliver a right cross to such self-righteous ones, as that Argentinian. Ah, but then I was a child and did as a reckless child. Now I am older and have put on the Cross of Christ. I did not turn the other’s cheek.
The long and short of it – I am not learning Italian.
A neighbor walking his dog asked me, as a means to say something nice in English, “Do you like dogs?”
“Sì. Sono deliziosi.” (Yes. I find them to be delicious.)
He chuckled, but he also coaxed his dog to his other side, further away from me.
A Lady came to me in the cobblestone front yard we have here and began speaking to me. I told her a few times I don’t speak Italian. She needs to go to the office. But she just kept going on at the mouth. So, I began nodding and saying “Si,” at various pauses, or “ah-humm.” I’m sure I had a very attentive and caring look on my face; that’s expected of one in my profession. I plunked my cigarette into the sewer for her sake. She strongly insisted I didn’t have to do that and offered me one of her cigarettes. She then went on and on about the business she came here for.
Finally she thanked me and asked my name. I said, “Si.”
She was confused and tried to get my name again and finally asked if I comprehended Italian.
I asked her, “Heeft u Nederlands spreken?”
She went in a huff to the office.
I was not sure at what points of her conversation with me she was confessing her sins or her husband’s sins, or the sins of her adult children and their spouses. Most of the sins belonged to her husband I think. It was hard to distinguish.
**This story is found in my book, a collection of short stories, Christmas Suprise. All my books are available in paperback or as e-books. Links to my special author page on a number of on line booksellers is on my own website, HawkDancer.com.
New or aspiring authors beware:
Do an extensive Google search on any publisher. There are dozens of successful rip off companies out there. If you go with self publishing, I recommend Lulu or CreateSpace.
You will need to learn basic page layout software. Microsoft Publisher does an excellent job and price is fair. Don’t use high end page makers or desk top publishing programs unless you are skilled in graphics and such.
Get a proof reader. Have a friend or relative with good grammar go over your work. A book wrought in errors is doomed from the start. Modern times is forgiving of a couple or so errors, but no one wants to struggle through poorly written books.
Publish America tops my list of publishers to avoid. They have one shady deal after another. Google them. There is no shortage of complaints against Publish America. I used them soon after they started. It was a horrible experience.
In fact, if you shop for my books, you will notice 2 editions for my first two novels. Buy the 2nd editions. The originals are out of print and were produced by Publish America. It is illegal for them to produce any more copies of “Hawk Dancer” or “Cloudburst.”
I now use Lulu. Buy the books produced by Lulu. Available on Lulu, Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Nobles.
There is much to learn about getting published. This is just a short blog on a few basic warnings or recommendations.
Dean, Greta and Amos star in a short story, Dressed to Suit for my next Birch Clump Village Reader.
The story opens with Amos back from the Vietnam War. He is shoping for clothes for his job interview. Gret is checking him out.
The story ends a couple or so years later with Dean dating Greta. The question left in previous BCVR readers was whether or not Gret (Amos’ former girl friend) and Greta (Dean’s girlfriend) are the same person or not. (The “a” at the end of the name fails to satisfy our curiosity.) This short story provides the answer.
The photo is a drawing consisting in part of real photo and in part free hand drawing from two sources. Les, a jealous contender for Greta picks a fight with Dean.