Griffin’s Heart: Working Through Loss

               It’s been ten years since actress Reagan Pasternak’s beloved cat, Griffin, died and since then, though life has been very busy with her career, marrying, and becoming a mother, she has missed the pet she calls a “soul mate.”

               To help with her grieving, Pasternak who starred in Netflix/HULU/HBO’s “Being Erica”, HBO’s “Sharp Objects”, Syfy’s “Wynonna Earp,”  and BET’s “Ms. Pat,” began journaling her feelings, incorporating not only the pain she was feeling but also tools and techniques for processing her grief. It took a decade but now Pasternak’s book, “Griffin’s Heart: Mourning Your Pet With No Apologies” (Creatures Align Press $27.99) is available through Amazon.

               Pasternak, in a phone call from her home in California, describes the book as an interactive memoir, keepsake,  and healing journal that she hopes will provide guidance for others who have lost a pet.

               “I feel that animals get so forgotten after giving us so much love,” she says. “I wanted to honor them.”

               Pasternak doesn’t consider herself a writer but says she felt compelled to write about all that she has learned while going through her own stages of grief. That includes reading about the brain and how it processes emotions and information, exploring different ways to heal such as music therapy, and taking up meditation to help with anxiety. Doing so helped with the loss of her other pets as well including another dog who just recently passed away.

               “Everything began accumulating in my psyche, and one morning my husband said that I needed to finish the book,” she says. “I had started it, put it aside, had a baby, was acting—so I was busy. Every morning when I started writing the book, I’d ask myself to whom am I writing. I wanted readers to have something, so they knew they weren’t alone and to know they could get through. Then it just all came together in a cosmic way. I met an editor who thought it was a great idea and we started working together.”

               The book contains exercises, chances to journal, and is a repository for readers to enter their own memories, melding their losses into what Pasternak sees as a keepsake.

               Since the book was published, Pasternak has been receiving notes from readers who share their own stories of losing a pet.

               “My husband and I read them and cry,” she says. “It’s so touching that these strangers are reaching out. I keep getting photos from people showing how they have placed the book next to the urn containing their pet’s ashes.”

This outreach has inspired Pasternak to stay focused on the book and the stories people share.   “I just believe I’m helping change the culture of grief,” she says.

For more information, visit www.griffinsheart.com/

Lady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity

A force of nature in her time, stage actress Charlotte Cushman who played both male and
female roles, was friends with Abraham Lincoln who admired her work. Indeed, she acted along side both Edwin and John Wilkes Booth and was said to have left a scar on the assassin’s neck that was later used to identify him as the president’s murderer.

Tana Wojczuk by Beowulf Sheehan

Cushman was 58-years-old when on November 7, 1874 she gave her last performance in front of
thousands of fans in New York City. There should have been much to remember her by. She is Angel of Waters on top of Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain designed by her lover Emma Stebbins. This is no ordinary sculpture, Cushman soars above what is, at twenty-six feet high by ninety-six feet wide, one of New York’s largest fountains. But that was the kind of woman she was. She acted for more than 30 years traveling the world to appear on stage and it was publicly well-known that her lovers were female. Yet for some reason she slips from sight, almost lost to history until now, almost 160 years later, her vibrant life is captured in Tana Wojczuk’s new biography, Lady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity.

Angel of Waters (Wikimedia Commons)

Wojczuk, a senior nonfiction editor at Guernica who teaches writing at New York University, first
became aware of Cushman when she was an aspiring actress, a passion she pursued starting at age
thirteen, and continued through college.

“Women often played men in the 18th and 19th centuries,” says Wojczuk who came across
Cushman’s name while researching women who had played Hamlet. “Most cross-dressing onstage was for comic effect or to titillate men who liked to ogle a woman’s legs. But Charlotte was a convincing man onstage. When I found out that she had also been one of the most famous women in the world I wanted to know why, and, like in a detective novel, to account for her disappearance.”

Charlotte Cushman. Wikimedia Commons

Cushman aimed for realism so much so that, according to Wojczuk, she was a pioneer of
method acting, visiting prostitutes in Five Points and exchanging clothes with them to prepare to
play a prostitute.

Reading fascinating books like this makes you wonder how many fascinating women—and
men—have vanished into the mists of time. Why, I wonder? ojczuk has a surprising answer.

“When she was at her height, American culture was remarkably diverse and experimental, still
figuring out what it would become,” she says. “There were successful all-black theatres in New York, for example, before well-connected white theatre owners had them shut down. Charlotte’s masculinity was acceptable on-stage, when viewed as a performance, and it helped argue for all gender as performance. But by the time she died in 1876, the American centennial, the postwar culture had clamped down, strictly policing public morality. Even though Charlotte helped create American culture, her role became inconvenient. She was a dangerous influence to young women now clamoring to go to college, to work, to vote. Even on the day she died Victorian critics tried to write her out of history. For a long time, they were successful.”

The Girl in White Gloves: A Novel of Grace Kelly

A beautiful Hollywood star; a handsome rich prince. It should have been perfect. But, of course, it wasn’t.

The surprising–and unprecedented–news that Harry and Meghan have withdrawn from the Royal Family last month stunned the globe and spurred conversations about individual pursuits versus familial and sovereign duty. It makes one wonder what if Grace Kelly had been able to break away from royal life and pursue her own dreams once she became disillusioned with her life as a Princess? The comparison is apt. Both Meghan Markle and Grace Kelly, two American actresses who made headlines when they married international Princes and gave up their careers and financial independence to serve their royal subjects.

That’s why the timing could not be more perfect for the release of THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES (Berkley 2020) by Kerri Maher). The novel is a vivid reimagining of the exhilarating and sensationalized life of Princess Grace of Monaco from the acclaimed best selling author of The Kennedy Debutante. Maher takes us into the inner life of an almost mythical female historical figure. Luminescent with golden hair and blue eyes, Golden Globe- and Oscar-winning actress, Princess—and fiction’s newest “it-girl”—Grace Kelly. was the favorite of many directors including Alfred Hitchcock. She was also the epitome of class.

The picture of perfection on paper, in the history books and from the public’s perspective, Grace Kelly’s life appeared as pure fantasy. A spectacular beauty from a prominent Philadelphia family, her dreams of becoming an accomplished actress came true and she was a star in many mediums—stage, television, and film.

But Kelly gave it all up when she assumed the role of a real life princess after marrying Prince Ranier of Monaco in a magnificent wedding ceremony. Becoming a Princess may be every young girl’s fantasy., but neither fame nor royalty (as Meghan Markle might have discovered) is as charming as it seems, and Kerri Maher takes a closer look at the woman behind the headlines in THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES.  This compelling novel provides insight into this real-life Cinderella story: the good, the bad, and the not-so-happily-ever-after.

As for Grace, she knew what people saw. She was the Cinderella story. An icon of glamor and elegance frozen in dazzling Technicolor. The picture of perfection. The girl in white gloves.

But behind the lens, beyond the panoramic views of glistening Mediterranean azure, she knows the truth. The sacrifices it takes for an unappreciated girl from Philadelphia to defy her family and become the reigning queen of the screen. The heartbreaking reasons she trades Hollywood for a crown. The loneliness of being a princess in a fairy tale kingdom that is all too real.

Hardest of all for her adoring fans and loyal subjects to comprehend, is the harsh reality that to be the most envied woman in the world does not mean she is the happiest. Starved for affection and purpose, facing a labyrinth of romantic and social expectations with more twists and turns than Monaco’s infamous winding roads, Grace must find her own way to fulfillment. But what she risks—her art, her family, her marriage—she may never get back.

Kerri Maher is the author of The Kennedy Debutante, which People magazine described as “a riveting reimagining of a true tale of forbidden love,” and This Is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World under the name Kerri Majors. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and founded YARN, an award-winning literary journal of short-form YA writing. A writing professor for many years, she now writes full time and lives with her daughter and dog in a leafy suburb west of Boston, Massachusetts.

Praise for THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES

“The stunning and very human story of a beloved icon…. Full of nuance and poignancy—this novel is gorgeous.”— Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune
 
“[A] fascinating, deeply researched novel of the extraordinary Grace Kelly … establishes Maher as a true force in biographical fiction.”—Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of The Golden Hour

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