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SOMETIMES THE ONLY WAY TO SURVIVE LIFE IS TO FIND THE COURAGE TO FINALLY LIVE.
Courage in Patience
Ashley Nicole Asher's life changes forever on the night her mother, Cheryl, meets Charlie Baker. Within a year of her mother's marriage to Charlie, typical eight-year-old Ashley's life becomes a nightmare of sexual abuse and emotional neglect. Bundling her body in blankets and sleeping in her closet to try to avoid Charlie's nighttime assaults, she is driven by rage at age 14 to to tell her mother, in spite of the threats Charlie has used to keep Ashley silent. Believing that telling will make Charlie go away, instead it reveals to Ashley where she lies on her mother's list of priorities.
"We're just going to move on now," Cheryl tells Ashley. "Go to your room." Ashley's psyche splinters into shards of glass, and she desperately tries to figure a way out, while at the same time battling numbness and an inability to remember what happened when she blacked out after Charlie tackled her. She knew that when she awoke her clothes were disheveled and the lower-half of her body was covered in bright red blood-- but she has only a blank spot in the "video" of her memory.
When Ashley's friend, Lisa, sees a note from Cheryl telling Ashley that Charlie would never "do those things to her," and insisting that she apologize for accusing him of molesting her, Lisa forces dazed Ashley to make an outcry to her teacher, Mrs. Chapman.
By the end of the day, Ashley's father, David, who has not seen Ashley since she was three months old, is standing in the offices of Child and Family Services. He brings her home to the small East Texas town of Patience, where he lives with his wife, Beverly, their son, Ben, and works with his brother, Frank. Its neighboring town, Six Shooter City, is so quirky, it's practically on the cusp of an alternate universe; a trip to the Wal-Mart reveals to visitors that "there's either something in the water..or family trees around here don't fork."
Through the summer school English class/ Quest for Truth taught by Beverly, an "outside-the-box" high school English teacher whose passion for teaching comes second only to her insistence upon authenticity, Ashley comes to know Roxanne Blake, a girl scarred outwardly by a horrific auto crash and inwardly by the belief that she is "Dr. Frankenstein's little experiment";
Wilbur "Dub" White, a fast-talking smart mouth whose stepfather is a white supremacist who nearly kills a man while Dub watches from the shadows, forcing Dub to realize that he cannot live with the person that he is, any longer;
Zaquoiah "Z.Z." Freeman, one of the few African-Americans in Patience, whose targeted-for-extinction family inherited the estate of one of Patience's founding families and has been given the charge to "turn this godforsaken town on its head";
Hector "Junior" Alvarez, a father at sixteen whose own father was killed in prison, who works two jobs and is fueled by the determination to "do it right" for his son, "3", and his girlfriend, Moreyma;
T.W. Griffin, whose football-coach father expects him to be Number One at everything, and whose mother naively believes that he is too young to think about sex; and
Kevin Cooper, a not-so-bright football player with a heart of gold, whose mother, Trini, a reporter for the local paper, is instrumental in exposing the ugliness that is censorship.
Every person in the class is confronted with a challenge that they must face head-on. The choices they make will not be easy—but they will be life-altering. With the exception of her mother and step-father, Ashley is surrounded by people who overcome their fear to embrace authenticity and truth-- the only way to freedom. But will Ashley have the inner-fortitude to survive the journey to recovery and the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Will Ashley find her voice, speak up for herself, and break the bondage of her abusive past?
Realizing "she's gonna need a lot more than we have," David and Bev enlist the help of Scott "Dr. Matt" Matthews, an experienced, slightly unconventional therapist who insists that Ashley can and must come out of hiding in the closet in her mind.
The Chris Crutcher novel, Ironman, is taught by Beverly Asher in the summer school class. When T.W.'s overbearing parents read the book, they decide that the book should be censored, and they involve the pastor of Patience's largest, most conservative church to lead the fight through the Purify Patience organization. Its mission is to cleanse Patience of Profanity, Promiscuity, and Parent-Bashing Pedagogy—all complaints the group has about the novel, Ironman. Its hidden agenda, however, is to return Patience to a time when "Patience was 100% white", "women knew their place","everyone had plenty of money", and "Christian values were taught in school."
The censoring, pseudo-Christian, white-supremacist, misogynist organization is exposed for what it is in a courageous move by one of its own (well..his mother threatens to twist his ear off if he doesn't speak up), isolating the pastor and causing most of his "flock" to deny they ever knew him. National and world press attention shine speculation on the dirty little secrets hidden in Patience, and its inhabitants are forced to examine their own values and beliefs.
Alone in the dark, Ashley must face her worst fears in a pivotal scene between her, Charlie, and her mother. Will she find the strength to advocate for her own right to exist in a world that is free of fear and abuse? Can she, like her friends, find Courage in Patience?
22 year old Krystle read my manuscript and gave me her feedback. With her permission, I am posting her review here.
I finished reading your manuscript last week and I was blown away. I loved it and I was hooked! The development of the characters is amazing because I felt like I had a real notion of the type of people they were. I was particularly hooked on Dub White because I remember having class with those kind of guys and wondering what their home life was like. I wondered if their parents cared, if their behavior was a result of their parents lack of caring, etc. It was superb.
Most of all, I loved how each character found their voice and faced the town in the meeting.
You know, the one thing I love about a good book is the way it can stir me and really reach into me and pull at my core. Your manuscript really gripped me at times. It made me face a lot of bad memories I had in Red Oak during my junior high years, and even in my high school years when it started to get around that I was gay.
I have so many good things to say about your manuscript, I'm not sure how to put it all in an order that makes sense without hopping from one topic to another. Your plot was amazing. I kept summarizing each chapter to my fiance, Nicole (who happens to be African-American as well), and she loved it. She particularily loved the part about ZZ's family, as did I. I always dreamt of slapping Red Oak in the face, so I kind of liked closing my eyes and living through ZZ's story.
I thoroughly enjoyed the way you portrayed Ashley's view of the church and its "pizza parties," because it reminded me of when that circus of a church program came to town to prey on impressionable junior high kids and make them smash their CDs, etc. It brought me back to that terrible memory in junior high of when Lauren Williams died, and rather than comforting me, this youth pastor literally pulled me into his prayer circle, cluched my hands tightly, and tried to make me convert. He made everyone pray loudly over my "lost soul" and was trying to force me to make Jesus Christ my savior. It was one of the most traumatic things I've ever experienced because of the way he approached it. I'm still trying to find that youth pastor to this day because there's a lot of things I want to say to him...
The families of these characters are so well-developed too! I have perfect visuals of the type of people they are. I really loved the description of T.W's mom!!! It reminded me of this kid I went to school with because his mom was just like that!!! I loved it! My mom used to smile over-politely at those people in the mall when they'd give me dirty looks for wearing my gay pride shirts! I loved it!!
Overall, I felt like you weren't just telling a story. I felt like you were telling everyone's story. The jock, the religious people, the outcasts, the recovering, the troublemaker, the young parent... man, it was just amazing.
You've inspired me to start up my new novel (I never finish these darn things!) and get out some of the anger I have towards my aunt so it won't eat at me anymore.
So... when's the next manuscript coming out? :) Just know that you have an avid reader in me!