THE STRUGGLES OF WOMEN

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Between the Pages: Where trials become TRIUMPH!,  by Thais Sherell J., (N-Spired Productions, Edison, New Jersey, 2017, 116 pages).

Book Review by Dennis Moore

June 18, 2017 (San Diego) - Thais Sherell J., who characterizes herself as an “agent of change”, has written a provocative and soul-searching book about women and their presumed place in society. The author, who has written and produced television productions, stage productions, film productions, and magazine articles promoting healthy living in and after life’s storms, chronicles the trials and tribulations of Joyce A. McDonald in this riveting and insightful book; Between the Pages: Where trials become TRIUMPH! This well-written and thought provoking book provides plenty of food for thought.

I was compelled to write the review of this book from a male’s perspective, after a few phone conversations and interviews with the author, and particularly after some personal disagreement with a statement made by her on the back cover of the book; “Throughout many civilizations, women have endured much in silence. They dare not utter a word about their hardship, discomfort, or even abuse. After all, many would argue that women have no voice as they are inferior beings. Therefore, with lips pressed tight, many women scream within and breathe when told. They stifle tears in the darkness – prisoners by memories they dare not share, until now.”

Surely, this is hyperbole on the part of Sherell, for this is a new day and time, for we see women in positions of power and authority in all aspects of life. We just missed out on the election of the first female president of the United States, Hillary Clinton, and we see women as CEO’s in boardrooms throughout the country. Perhaps the author is basing her thoughts on some personal experience.

Just recently I visited the Michelle Obama Library in Long Beach, California, named after our former first lady. I am sure that Michelle, also from my hometown of Chicago, would differ with the author’s assessment and viewpoint on the back cover of this book, “that women have no voice as they are inferior beings.” I strongly disagree with the author’s assessment also.

In an earlier review of a book by this writer, The Audacious Woman, by Pamela Y. Toussaint and her daughter Tamara Toussaint, I am also sure that they would disagree with the author’s assessment of a woman’s place and condition in life.

Between the Pages recounts  the life of one brave woman, HIV/AIDS advocate and artist, Joyce A. McDonald. This is a compelling story, which resonates with me in so many ways, and I am sure will also with readers of this book. I encourage others to join the many people across the globe who have already found inspiration and strength from the transparency of McDonald’s life story which transcends from a life of low self-esteem, drug and sexual abuse, to an ordained minister, NYS chaplain, and world renowned speaker and testimonial artist.

I am sure that anyone reading this book will acknowledge a Joyce A. McDonald in their life, in some shape, fashion or form. Hopefully, they will also see that person overcoming the obstacles that McDonald overcame.

The subject of this book, Joyce A. McDonald, recounts her horrific times with her boyfriend “Clyde”, who was actually a married man with a young child. She recounts the numerous beatings by him and a forced abortion. Mind you, this is a young teenaged girl, enamored by an older and seasoned married man!

In further regard to the forced abortion, performed under crude and less than ideal conditions, McDonald describes it graphically and thusly; “I fell asleep and escaped the pain of the unnatural childbirth, but it was only brief. My eyes opened wide as pain crashed through me with more force than the first time. Later, I would discover this was the process called the afterbirth. The afterbirth came out in big chunks and little pieces. It looked like I had been slaughtered. I had lost so much blood that I couldn’t even crawl to the sink to get water.”

This little girl, the teenaged McDonald, would further describe this humbling and painful ordeal of a forced abortion by an older man that she professed to be in love with: “I looked towards the clock; It was 5:00 A.M. Blood was everywhere. I was lying in a pool of smelly blood, the blood of my unborn son. I was alive! Somehow, I had made it through the ordeal. Still, my strength was gone. I wanted to move, but I couldn’t. So, in the blood I stayed as my eyes opened, and closed, sending me back into the abyss.”

McDonald would later give birth to a baby girl, “Miracle”, but because it was discovered that she was on drugs the Administration for Children Services (ACS) in New York would take custody of the child. To add to her anguish and humiliation, while still in the hospital the doctor molested her with his hands while she still had her legs in the stirrups.

This book resonates with me in some profound and personal ways, particularly in regard to my own 23-year-old daughter Brandy. It also reminds me of noted singer and songwriter John Mayer’s song Daughters, which specifically states: “I know a girl – She puts the color inside my world – But, she’s just a maze – Where all of the walls continually change – And I’ve done all I can – To stand on her steps with my heart in my hand – Now I’m starting to see – Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me.” This song by Mayer tears me apart, as well as some of the revelations about Joyce A. McDonald by Sherell in this well-written book. Listen to Mayer's song by clicking here.

The author writes of the repeated rapes of McDonald at a young and tender age, as well as the sordid lifestyle that she lived on the mean streets of New York. She also recounts McDonald being beaten and pimped out by older men as a teenager, and her being hooked on drugs, necessitating her entering a detox program.

Sherell writes of McDonald coming from a loving 2-parent family, which should have kept her from the ravages of the streets, and her particular affinity of a loving and supportive father. It is also noteworthy to mention that Joyce McDonald’s oldest sister, best-selling author Janet McDonald, was named as the American Library Association’s Best Book for Young Adults in 2002, for her book Spellbound.

In further regard to John Mayer’s Daughters, a particularly poignant passage that relates to Between the Pages is the song stating: “Fathers, be good to your daughters – Daughters will love like you do – Girls become lovers who turn into mothers – So mothers be good to your daughters too.”

There are so many subplots to this amazing and well-written story, which I highly recommend to readers of all persuasions.

Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and he is the book review editor of SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine. He is also the author of a book about Chicago politics; “The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago.” He can be contacted at contractsagency@gmail.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @DennisMoore8.

Comments

Prey of the innocent

K.B. Schaller, thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading your account of Native Americans as it is part of my heritage as well. All the best! -Thais

Between the Pages: Where trials become TRIUMPH!, by Thais Shere

Thais, thanks for writing this book from a woman's perspective as you should, and for shedding some light on Joyce A McDonald's story of "rising up from the ashes" so to speak. I was unfamiliar with her story of abuse and trauma, so I was ecstatic to read that her life has turned around for the better. Everyone's life has a purpose despite the bitter storms, and God has used her so that she can speak to others who are going through similar experiences in their lives. Dennis, as you stated you reviewed this book from a male perspective, so I can see where you disagreed with some of the author's statements. Women share their stories with each other both good and bad all the time, and although a handful of us has made strides there are so many who are battling and struggling to get there. Thanks as always for adding/including other information in your review e.g. John Mayer's song " Daughters", I listened to it and saw how it 's analogous to Ms. McDonald's story. Great review, thank you, and a great story as well Thais Sherell. Jacqueline Carr - Author of "Quiet Thoughts" and "A Selected Few Just For You."

"Between the Pages"

Again, this is a fascinating book for so many reasons, that resonates with me for some personal reasons!

Stories Shared

Jacqueline, thank you for taking the time to read the book and respond. Every time I listen to other women, I gleam something that can enrich my life and/or share with others. We need more sharing of our stories as our experiences are a valuable resource to our advancement. May you continue to write and inquire many. All the best. Thais

Male perspective...

Many thanks for reviewing and sharing what you received from my book,
    Between the Pages.
I am accustomed to the feedback of women, so it was especially intriguing, as well as an honor, to read a male perspective. In your review, you mentioned a disagreement with my sentiments on the back cover; I believe this resulted from a misread of the text, where I stated,
“Throughout many civilizations women have endured much in silence. They dare not utter a word about their hardship, discomfort, or even abuse. After all, many would argue that women have no voice as they are inferior beings. Therefore, with lips pressed tight, many women scream within and breathe when told. They stifle tears in the darkness – prisoners by memories they dare not share, until now.”
The key words that readers must take notice of in that statement are, "Throughout many civilizations." Here, I am referencing the state of MANY women, not all women, throughout MANY dispensations of time and culture since women’s creation. This is validated through the study of numerous societies around the globe. And though I heartily agree that in the United States of America, during our present dispensation of time, some "women" have made great strides, far too many are yet stuck. It is to these women, and men, that I reach out to. I need them to know that there is life after a storm, and though it may appear that what remains is damaged beyond compare, beauty can come from the ashes with a change of mind, a change or heart, and a change of position. To move forward, the weight of the past must be addressed and released. Joyce is just one example of those who did just that. I know there are many more to come. Come forth. The world needs YOU :-) -Thaïs Sherell

"Between the Pages"

Thais, on the contrary, it was not a misread by me of the text, as I like to think of myself as a student of history, and certainly an advocate of women. I am well aware of the struggles of women, and their slights, going all the way back to Mary in the Bible. I am also aware of the great triumphs by women throughout the annals of history, such as the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, Fannie Lou Hamer and Sojourner Truth. I am also just as aware of what the Taliban subjected women to in Afghanistan. Yes, we have a lot to overcome until we are all equals as human beings, something I strive for my daughter, as well as all women. I will forever be in the forefront with you Thais, to make that a reality. You have told an inspiring and powerful story, one in which I one day hope to see it on the movie screen. 

Women possess a secret strength

Kudos to author Thais Sherell J who characterizes herself as an “agent of change,” and to one who tells other people's stories, and tells them well. Between the Pages gives a very real and raw account of the life of HIV/AIDS advocate and artist, Joyce A. McDonald. Thais, thanks for sharing the secret strength of this female soldier. Some one just recently gave me an appropriate quote from her late grandmother. This quote is appropriate for this scenario and describes the struggles and victories of Joyce A. McDonald, and many others who've had McDonald's life experiences. This wise grandmother said, "God gives His strongest battles to His strongest soldiers." It's obvious that McDonald fits into that category and has lived to share her victory, though bloody and cruel was the journey. Thanks Dennis for always providing great literary insight in your book reviews; including this one as well.---Dorothy Bracy Alston, Author (How to Whup the Devil), prayer strategist, and evangelist.

Strong Battles for Strongest Soldiers

D.B. Alston, thank you for sharing. If more women share, prayerfully they'll be less women that must fight the same types of battles. Then, they can war against other strongholds that fight families and society. May all be well with you and those in your sphere of influence. -Thais

"Between the Pages" by Thais Sherell J.

Thanks for your comments Dorothy, I trust that you felt honored to have the author call in to your Prayer Ministry last Monday. I am hopeful that at some future point, the subject of her book, Joyce McDonald, will also call in to participate in your inspiring and spiritual session.

Great review of Between the Pages

Great review Dennis! As a woman who has endured many traumatic experiences, I am proud to have made great strides in my life so that I do not have to sit silently, stifling tears in darkness like I once did in my life. Therefore, I too must disagree with the author’s assessment of a woman’s place and condition in life. I am inspired by great women, who have endured circumstances and rose above the pain to shine. Thais Sherell J., as an “agent of change”, I am inspired by you, and proud of the accomplishments in your life. As an up and coming author, I realize that I can do it as well, and despite what it looks like around me, my focus must be one of tunnel vision, only looking towards my goal, and to God.. I can't wait to read this interesting story. Thank you, once again Dennis, you always help emphasize how great these works of art really are!! Bless you kind sir! Cortina Jackson Author of "On Earth As It Is In Hell" www.cortinajackson.com

Endurance

Thank you for sharing Cortina. May all be well! -Thais

Between The Pages

"Between the Pages" by Thais Sherell J. reminds the reader of how far women, collectively, have come. Her recounting of the life of Joyce A. McDonald chronicles what would have broken a lesser person. The fact that McDonald overcame a life of drug and sexual abuse along with low self esteem to become an ordained minister, chaplain, and renowned speaker is nothing short of a miracle. McDonald's sharing that when she surrendered her life to the Jesus Way and "felt a new strength that surfaced within me" was the initial step that took great courage; but young women being preyed upon by much older men is nearly as old as time and crosses racial and ethnic lines. Some of the graphic descriptions of Ms. McDonald's ordeals, however, would not be for the faint-of-heart. Thank you Dennis Moore for another riveting review. ---KB Schaller, Author, 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World.