From The Frisco Enterprise Newspaper
Author’s debut novel tackles sexual abuse, censorship
By Ann Marie Shambaugh, Staff Writer(Created: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 1:33 PM CDT)
Sexual abuse. Censorship. Religion. Racism.
These words may appear to fit the plot of a long, dark novel, but they are all addressed in the riveting first chapter of rookie author Beth Fehlbaum’s new book, “Courage in Patience.”
The story follows the struggle of Ashley Asher, a 15-year-old girl who moves to East Texas to live with her father and step-mother after being sexually abused by her step-father and ignored by her mother when seeking help.
In the fictional town of Patience, Texas, Ashley learns that everyone struggles with something, but each life situation is different. Although “Courage in Patience” deals with graphic subject matter, Fehlbaum said it is ultimately about a message of hope.“This book is written for anyone who has had to face their greatest fears and find out what they’re made of,” she said.
Most authors probably would not choose to write their debut novel about a subject as sinister as sexual abuse of children, but Fehlbaum said the topic chose her. She was sexually abused at the hands of a family member and has taken years of therapy to deal with the trauma.
She wrote “Courage in Patience” at the suggestion of her therapist. When she was able to step outside of her personal experiences and write about the same topics through a fictional story, the words flowed together quickly.
“I have the life experience to write a book like that, but this is a work of fiction,” she said. “It’s someone else’s life, and that made it easier.”
Fehlbaum and Ashley share some similar experiences, although the book is not based on the author’s life. She said that most victims of sexual abuse feel alone, and she hopes that her book will let them know that others have experienced the same thing.
“When you’re living through sexual abuse you feel like every inch of your life is covered in shame, and you feel like you’re alone, like nobody could ever understand how you feel,” Fehlbaum said.
In 2007 the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed 1,629 cases of sexual abuse in Region 3, a 19-county area that includes Collin and Denton counties. Officials believe many cases go unreported for various reasons.
“Many times it can go unreported because children are embarrassed or they feel like they don’t have anyone to talk to about it,” department spokesperson Marissa Gonzales said. “In any situation of abuse or neglect, very young children are the most at risk, because they are not able to verbalize that something has happened to them.”
Gonzales also said that the number of sexual abuse cases in Region 3 has risen steadily for the past several years. She did not know why the area has seen the increase, but she urged adults to be proactive in addressing the problem.
“It’s really important for adults to step up to the plate,” she said. “It’s really important as a community that each individual takes the time to be a trusted adult for some child.”
In “Courage in Patience,” Ashley finds help through her step-mother, an English teacher. Fehlbaum shares that job title in the Athens ISD, where she works with fifth-grade students in a dual language arts program. She has worked as a teacher for 10 years, previously working as a middle school teacher in Mesquite.
Although she said she loves writing, she plans to continue working as a teacher for years to come.“Writing is like breathing to me,” Fehlbaum said. “I think I will always write, and I’m hoping to have a career at this as well as a career as a teacher.”
The author has begun work on a sequel titled “Hope in Patience” which is expected to be complete next summer. She plans to continue writing books after that, but she said they will likely focus on different issues and characters.
Although it is already available on Amazon.com
, “Courage in Patience” will officially release Monday with a launch from 3 to 6 p.m. at The Bookworm, 3245 Main St., in Frisco.
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