No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us

            “Domestic violence is not a large part of our conversation,” says Rachel Louise Snyder, author of the recently released

            “Domestic violence is not a large part of our conversation,” says Rachel Louise Snyder, author of the recently released No Visible Bruises, her exploration of this country’s domestic violence epidemic and what it means regarding other types of violence as well as what to do about it.  “I want to bring these conversations to the forefront.”

            Snyder, a journalist who won the J. Anthony Lukas Word-in-Progress Award for this project, uses the individual stories of women to show how complicated and overwhelming the subject is—and how pervasive. And while we might think of domestic violence as being an issue, if not of the past, as one more under control than when O.J. Simpson was tried for murdering his wife and women’s safety more assured by the 1994 passage of the Violence Against Women Act. But that isn’t true.

            “Domestic homicides are rising about 25%–it used to be about three women a day three women were killed now it’s four, “says Snyder, who went to college in Naperville and lived all over Chicago including Oak Park, has traveled to more than 50 countries and lived in London for three year and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for six.  She also put herself through her first year of college by booking Dimensions, a Highland, Indiana band, for their gigs.

            “People don’t always want to read a book like this,” says Snyder. “I wanted to write a book that people couldn’t pull away from.”

            And, indeed, she did. As awful as the situations she describes—women trying to leave abusers but unable or not able to get out in time, the toll it takes on their families.  Wanting her book to read like a novel, Snyder includes true facts that would be hard to believe in a novel—one husband keeps a pet rattlesnake and drops it in the shower when his wife is in there or slips it under the covers when she’s sleeping.

            “It is an exploration of what it means to live under stress under every moment or every day,” says Snyder, an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington D.C.

            It’s also an exploration of agencies and police as they try to step in and stop the progression—sometimes with success and sometimes with heartbreak. Snyder lived all this, visiting shelters, talking to police and talking to women.

 “I think domestic terrorism is a closer reality to what is going on than domestic abuse,” she says.

            In her two decades of reporting, both in the U.S. and oversees, Snyder has seen many instances of domestic terrorism, sometimes central to her stories sometimes on the edges. When she started researching and writing No Visible Bruises, which took her nine years to finish–she even wrote her novel What We’ve Lost Is Nothing which is set in Oak Park, Illinois during the process–she never lost interest in telling the story.

            “I wanted to have the conversation about this that we have around poverty, economics, other issues and to really understand it,” she says.

            She also wanted to show how violence can lead to more violence, noting that choking a partner is a predictor of an homicide attempt amd there’s a link to mass murders as we saw in the First Baptist  Church in Sutherland Spring where Devin Patrick Kelley, a convicted domestic terrorism while serving in the Air Force killed his wife and 25 other worshippers. Domestic terrorism also is the direct cause of over 50% of women who find themselves in homeless shelters.

            Is there reason to hope? I ask her.

            She believes there is, but that it’s important to know that domestic abuse is still happening, and we need to be empathetic and that it’s good women are getting angry.

Ifyougo:

What: Rachel Snyder has two events in Chicago.

When & Where: Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL; 773.769.9299; womenandchildrenfirst.com

When & Where: Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL; 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

, her exploration of this country’s domestic violence epidemic and what it means regarding other types of violence as well as what to do about it.  “I want to bring these conversations to the forefront.”

            Snyder, a journalist who won the J. Anthony Lukas Word-in-Progress Award for this project, uses the individual stories of women to show how complicated and overwhelming the subject is—and how pervasive. And while we might think of domestic violence as being an issue, if not of the past, as one more under control than when O.J. Simpson was tried for murdering his wife and women’s safety more assured by the 1994 passage of the Violence Against Women Act. But that isn’t true.

            “Domestic homicides are rising about 25%–it used to be about three women a day three women were killed now it’s four, “says Snyder, who went to college in Naperville and lived all over Chicago including Oak Park, has traveled to more than 50 countries and lived in London for three year and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for six.  She also put herself through her first year of college by booking Dimensions, a Highland, Indiana band, for their gigs.

            “People don’t always want to read a book like this,” says Snyder. “I wanted to write a book that people couldn’t pull away from.”

            And, indeed, she did. As awful as the situations she describes—women trying to leave abusers but unable or not able to get out in time, the toll it takes on their families.  Wanting her book to read like a novel, Snyder includes true facts that would be hard to believe in a novel—one husband keeps a pet rattlesnake and drops it in the shower when his wife is in there or slips it under the covers when she’s sleeping.

            “It is an exploration of what it means to live under stress under every moment or every day,” says Snyder, an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington D.C.

            It’s also an exploration of agencies and police as they try to step in and stop the progression—sometimes with success and sometimes with heartbreak. Snyder lived all this, visiting shelters, talking to police and talking to women.

 “I think domestic terrorism is a closer reality to what is going on than domestic abuse,” she says.

            In her two decades of reporting, both in the U.S. and oversees, Snyder has seen many instances of domestic terrorism, sometimes central to her stories sometimes on the edges. When she started researching and writing No Visible Bruises, which took her nine years to finish–she even wrote her novel What We’ve Lost Is Nothing which is set in Oak Park, Illinois during the process–she never lost interest in telling the story.

            “I wanted to have the conversation about this that we have around poverty, economics, other issues and to really understand it,” she says.

            She also wanted to show how violence can lead to more violence, noting that choking a partner is a predictor of an homicide attempt amd there’s a link to mass murders as we saw in the First Baptist  Church in Sutherland Spring where Devin Patrick Kelley, a convicted domestic terrorism while serving in the Air Force killed his wife and 25 other worshippers. Domestic terrorism also is the direct cause of over 50% of women who find themselves in homeless shelters.

            Is there reason to hope? I ask her.

            She believes there is, but that it’s important to know that domestic abuse is still happening, and we need to be empathetic and that it’s good women are getting angry.

Ifyougo:

What: Rachel Snyder has two events in Chicago.

When & Where: Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL; 773.769.9299; womenandchildrenfirst.com

When & Where: Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL; 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

Night Moves

              “I didn’t decide to write this book, it was already written,” says Jessica Hopper, a Chicago based music critic with a career encompassing over the last two decades, a time when she not only wrote for New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Buzz Feed and Bookforum, was an editor at Pitchfork and Rookie and editorial director at MTV News and still managed to keep extensive notes about those times.

              “I was a very prodigious chronicler of my life,” says Hopper, who started writing when she was 15 and is the author of the recently released Night Moves, a book that curates scenes from her career as a writer in the music business.

              Though she didn’t have formal training at that time, her parents were both journalists and Hopper says her impetus was that you learn by doing.

              “If you wanted to be something, you just did it,” she says. “I didn’t know anything about music but what I liked and didn’t like. I wanted to be real. If it didn’t go to the heart, that wasn’t what I wanted for my writing. I work really hard and I’ve always worked really hard, that’s how I work, I keep my head down and just keep writing.”

              Describing Night Moves as being shots of memories and feeling, Hopper drew from diaries and remembrances of those times as well as her published works.

              “Some of the pieces in my book are ephemeral,” she says, adding that when she started reviewing her past journaling and published pieces there were parts that she didn’t remember at all. “There are definitely things that I was surprised to re-encounter in my young life.”

              For as long as she’s been in the business, Hopper says she doesn’t think of the big picture when she’s doing something.

              “I just do my best and put it out there.”

              Ifyougo:

              What: Jessica Hopper has several Chicago book events.

              When & Where:

              Thursday, May 9 at 7 p.m., Wilmette Public Library, 1242 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, IL. Sponsored by The Book Stall, 847-446-8880; thebookstall.com

             Friday, May 10 at 7 p.m. Author Conversation with singer-songwriter and social activist Ani DiFranco & Jessica Hopper. Wilson Abbey, 935 W. Wilson Ave., Chicago, IL. Sponsored by Women & Children First, 773-769-9299; womenandchildrenfirst.com

Seduction, Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood

When it comes to the #MeToo movement, Karina Longworth, author of the just released Seduction, Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood, is surprised. But not in the way you might expect.

“I’m more surprised that people seem to think everything has changed with a snap of a finger,” says Longworth. “Centuries of institutionalized sexism can’t be fixed that cleanly or easily. Especially in Hollywood—although you don’t have to look further than our national daily political drama to see that toxic and dehumanizing ideas about women are still the rule more than the exception.”

To tell the stories of Hollywood and its famed casting couch, Longworth chose oil magnate, inventor and movie producer Howard Hughes as a way to link the exploitation of women then and now by providing a group portrait of ten actresses who were romantically and/or professionally involved with Howard Hughes, from the late 1920s through the end of the 1950s.

 “Howard Hughes is remembered as one of the great playboys of the 20th century, and when this is discussed, a seemingly endless list of actresses is breathlessly unfurled,” says Longworth. “Reading such lists, I became interested in exploring the very full lives and careers each actress had, and what role being one of Howard Hughes’s girls played in their stardom. I decided to use Hughes as a kind of Trojan Horse through which I could tell the stories of ten actresses, both still famous and forgotten, whose lives and careers were impacted by his interest in them.

Her research was extensive and turned up some interesting documents including a memo Howard Hughes once drafted about actress Jane Russell’s breasts, a subject he was fanatic about, so much so that he designed a bra to showcase them.

              Longworth, the creator and author of You Must Remember This podcasts about the scandalous secret history of 20th-century Hollywood which has hundreds of thousands of listeners, is also the author of books about George Lucas, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep. She’ll be in Chicago on Monday, January 14 for a book signing as well as the screening of Outrage, a 1950 movie directed by the sultry actress Ida Lupino about a woman whose life is almost destroyed by rape.

              “Outrage deals with a uniquely female situation in a uniquely empathetic way,” writes Longworth about the movie. “After such a violation, it asks, how could a woman learn how to be around men again, to trust them, to let them touch her?”

              Another goal in writing her book was to create an interest in the actresses on the list of Hughes’s conquests the author of books about George Lucas, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep the author of books about George Lucas, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep, many of whom are forgotten.

              “I hope readers are moved to watch the movies starring some great actresses, fine stars and fascinating women,” she says. “If they seek out Ida Lupino’s directorial efforts, lesser known Hepburn films like Christopher Strong or Morning Glory, or the movies of Jean Peters and Terry Moore, I’ll have done my job.”

Ifyougo

What: Karina Longworth will join the Chicago Filmmakers for a special screening of the 1950 film Outrage as well as a talk and book signing.

When: Monday, January 14 from 7 to 10 p.m.

Where: Chicago Filmmakers, 5720 N Ridge Ave., Chicago, IL

Cost: The ticket only option to the screening is pay what you can though a donation is encouraged. For a book and ticket, the cost $37.22 w/service fee. To order, brownpapertickets.com/event/3914967

FYI: Women & Children First is putting on the event. For more information, 773-769-9299; wcfbooks@gmail.com or womenandchildrenfirst

Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free

Inside the purity culture, girls and women are not only responsible for their own sexual thoughts and actions but also those of the boys and men around them says Linda Kay Klein, author of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free (Touchstone 2018 $26).

Linda Kay Klein Author Photo by Jami Saunders Photography            “Because women are seen as the keepers of sexual purity which is a necessary part of their living out their faith, when men or boys have lustful thoughts about them, then it’s about what they were wearing, were they flirting,” says Klein, who grew up in the evangelical movement in the 1990s before breaking free. “It creates a tremendous amount of anxiety because your purity is assessed by others around you. It makes you worry about when you’re going to fall off the cliff and no longer be considered pure and no longer part of the community.”

But if being non-sexual before marriage is of utmost importance, afterwards the onus is on the woman to be extremely sexual, able to meet all their husband’s needs lest he cheat—which of course would be her  fault.

“Zero to 100 is extremely difficult,” says Klein, noting it’s better to ease into sexual experience. “I interviewed women who didn’t know what sex was and suddenly they’re expected to be a sexual satisfier.”

As far as sexual abuse, well, if girls and women were just pure, that sort of thing wouldn’t happen.

Klein was in her 20s when she left the evangelical church. The impetus was in part when she learned her pastor had been convicted of child enticement with intent to have sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl who was under his pastoral care. She was a senior in high school and as awful as it was to learn that, it was even more devastating when she discovered the pastor had been let go from two other evangelical institutions after he confessed to committing the same acts.  But her evangelical upbringing still bound her.

“I thought I would be free,” says Klein who during her teenage years was so obsessed with staying pure that she took pregnancy tests even though she was a virgin and resisted asking for help when dealing with what would later be diagnoses with Crohn’s Disease because she wanted to prove she was a woman of the spirit and not of the flesh. “But I wasn’t able to escape them, they were me.”

At least at first.

Writing her book, which took 12 years, was cathartic for Klein who interviewed many evangelical women and likening the fear and angst they experienced as similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Noting there’s a dominant gender teaching in the evangelical church—as well as many other churches, Klein says that patriarchy hurts both men and women except those at the top of the hierarchy.  There is also something else off putting about the purity culture and that is the profit motive in the development of products.

“The people on the ground are believers,” she says.

Others make money off of purity rings which can range in price from around $10 to $600 or more, abstinence education, Christian purity parties, father-daughter purity balls and clothing including t-shirts reading “Modest is Hottest.”

“Over the course of time I did a lot of healing through my research for the book,” says Klein, who. “There have been phases in this journey. I’ve been angry, but keeping my focus on healing, knowing I’m not alone—I think there’s something powerful that happens.”

Ifyougo:

What: Author Conversation: Linda Kay Klein & Deborah Jian Lee

When: November 7 at 7 p.m.

Where: Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: 773.769.9299; womenandchildrenfirst.com

 

 

 

A Cloud in The Shape of a Girl

Intrigued by the passage of time, the choices we make and the constraints life forces upon us, Jean Thompson, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist author, let a swirl of happenings and thoughts combine to create her latest novel, A Cloud in The Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster 2018; $26.00).Jean Thompson_c_Marion Ettlinger“The inspiration for the book came at me from different directions,” she says. “I was interested in how different generations pass on their memories, what the context of our day-to-day life is and how we choose to remember our past. At the time I was putting this all together, there were all these violent family episodes in the news and that played a part too. As a sidebar, so did the unearthing of my grandmother’s 1922 Rockford College yearbook and my grandfather’s from Lombard High School in 1912.”

Using one family in a time span from World War II to now, Thompson follows the changing American culture over the years as seen through the lives of three women—mother, daughter and granddaughter living in an unnamed Midwestern college town (note: Thompson lives in Urbana, Illinois), dealing with the cards they’ve been dealt and yearning for so much more.

“For some of these women, the choices are made for them,” says Thompson. “Evelyn, the grandmother can’t achieve what she wants and so settles. Laura, the mother, always wanted to be have a family, but as she says, ‘just not the family I have.’ And Grace has endless options, but still struggles.”

It’s a melancholic novel at times but exceptionally well-written, showing the ties and love binding three generations of women together and the need for all of us to avoid repeating the past by studying the history of those we love as well as ourselves and making decisions including what to leave behind and what we need to go forward to achieve what we desire.

Ifyougo:

What: Jean Thompson in conversation with award-winning author Beth Finke about Thompson’s new novel, A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl. This event will also include a reading and book-signing.

When: Thursday, October 11 at 7pm

Where: Women & Children First, 5233 North Clark St., Chicago, IL

FYI: 773-769.9299; womenandchildrenfirst

 

Cecile Richards: “Make Trouble”

“How much time do you have?” Cecile Richards laughs when I ask how her mother, the late Ann Richards and the first woman governor of Texas, influenced her.

“She taught me so much,” continues Richards, the outgoing president of Planned Parenthood who will be in Chicago next week to talk about her new book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead — My Life Story (Touchstone, 2018; $27). “There were the practical lessons, like never wear patterns on TV, or before you name your child, think about how it will look on a bumper sticker. And then there were the life lessons I think about constantly: People don’t do things for your reasons, they do things for their reasons. You only get one life, and this is it – there are no second chances, and no do-overs. And most of all, that there is no higher calling or better way to spend your time than public service and making people’s lives better.”Cecile Richards portrait

Richards recalls how, when eight months pregnant with twins and campaigning for her mother, she had to figure out what to wear to such events as the Luling Watermelon Thump parade and how  despite all polls to contrary, Ann Richards won the governor’s race. All of these experiences developed in Richards a resiliency and an ability to persevere no matter what.

“To me, that’s one of the ultimate lessons for activists today: Never let practicality stand in the way of doing the impossible,” says Richards. “Whenever you’re working for social change, there are going to be people who disagree with what you’re doing. If there aren’t, you probably need to set your sights higher. Anything worth doing has its challenges, and I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to be able to choose to do the work I do.”

Calling herself a troublemaker, she encourages others to take that role as well.

“Activism and working for social justice are not a chore – they’re fun, inspiring, powerful, and introduce you to people who will change your life and change the world,” says Richards.

She’s also excited that there are currently 35,000 women in America running for office.

“They’re not waiting for permission or an invitation,” she says. “They’re looking around at the people – especially the men – who are supposed to represent them and thinking, ‘I could do better than that.’ Women are leading the resistance, and that is one of the most hopeful, encouraging signs I’ve seen in my life. The number of people in this country who believe politicians should be able to interfere in women’s personal health decisions, who want to go back to the days when women didn’t have the opportunities they do today – that’s a small iceberg, and it’s floating out to sea.”

Ifyougo:

What: David Axelrod, Chief Strategist for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and current Director of University of Chicago Institute of Politics and a Senior Political Commentator @CNN, will be in conversation with Cecile Richards:

When: Saturday, April 14 at 4pm

Where: Nicholas Senn High School, 5900 N. Glenwood Avenue, Chicago, IL

FYI: Tickets are for sale by Women & Children’s First and can be ordered at brownpapertickets.com/event/3335756. The price includes a pre-signed copy of the book.

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