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!
Yes, women have gone through many struggles, some over the misplaced love of a man. Phyllis Hyman, one of my favorite singers of all time, committed suicide supposedly over a failed relationship. I saw her perform twice in Chicago many years ago. Listen to one of her classic songs by clicking here.
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 pictured with me here at her brother Julien's graduation from CalArts in Valencia. 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.
Although this book is about women, and one woman in particular, it is about a parent's relationship with their children. My mother once told me before she passed away in 2009, that her grandfather told her many years ago that "children will break your heart", but in the case of my daughter, my heart has been torn apart, for reasons spelled out in John Mayer's aforementioned song Dauhgters.
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.”
The author recently appeared as a guest on the "Breathe Again" radio show, where you can listen to her interview by clicking here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at @DennisMoore8.