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Mary Saracino

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Voices of the Soft-bellied Warrior: A Memoir
by Mary Saracino   

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Books by Mary Saracino
· Heretics: A Love Story
· The Singing of Swans
· No Matter What
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Publisher:  Spinsters Ink Books ISBN-10:  1883523419 Type: 


Copyright:  October 2001 ISBN-13:  9781883523411

This memoir chronicles the author's four-year journey to reclaim her voice after the onset of a rare voice disorder.

Author's website

Shortly after Saracino’s first novel was published in 1993, she began to experience an inexplicable clenching of her vocal cords. Over a four-year period, she was increasingly unable to speak without great strain. In 1997 the mysterious problem was diagnosed as a rare voice disorder. This memoir is the compelling story of the author’s journey and her struggle to reclaim her voice on physical, spiritual and emotional levels. It is ultimately a tale of epiphany, recovery and redemption.

Praising the memoir, Louise DeSalvo wrote: “A stupendous achievement. Saracino speaks here as she has never spoken before; as no one has ever spoken before.”


There is a psychic cord tethering me to my mother. It is thick and heavy. It wraps its prickly fingers around the soft skin of my throat. When I was a child, I made a tacit agreement with my mother to keep my family's secrets. Protect her at all costs. I have paid a high price for this silencing.
My voice is raw. My emotions stretched to a thin slit of air, a violin string taut against the bones in my neck, screeching its painful aria. My voice is on fire. It flares with ferocious rage. It bites and singes, eating away the flesh of my will to live.

I am afraid to meet the world. Fearful of ordinary, everyday encounters at the grocery store, at the gas station, friendly greetings as I walk around Lake Harriet. I am afraid to open my mouth and speak because each time I do not know what will come forth. Every hello is fragmented, frayed, fraught with tension and strangled consonants, mangled vowels.

I am afraid of my writing. What has chosen me feels the desperate flames of my struggle to voice my truth. I write of old wounds, unhealed grief, stories that are stored in my bones, my blood, the very fiber of my cell walls. I excavate the mother lode of memory and polish the rough stones into imprefect facets, reflecting the pain and the joys of my life. Will what I write emerge in a clear sweet voice, fluid and honest? Or will the sentences and paragraphs grate against the grasping voice of stagnant secrets? This emotional wound has caused impairment. My physical voice is strained. I can no longer trust my vocal cords. And so, too, I can no longer trust the vocal folds of my inner, writer's voice to bellow this insistent necessity: break the silences.

Professional Reviews

Rocky Mountain News Review
"Saracino's gift of clarity, unflinching honesty and fine turn of phrase...will captivate readers." --
Joan Hinkemeyer, Rocky Mountain News -- Rocky Mountain News, October 5, 2001, page 30D Customer Review
Mary Saracino takes readers on a very candid, sensitive, and creative journey through the healing process told through her personal accounts, journal entries and dreams, as well as through descriptions of her artwork. A must-read if you are a survivor of tragedy or abuse, if you care about a survivor, or if you are a compassionate advocate or healing professional.

Writers, visual artists, and other creatives will also find this a fascinating memoir for understanding the creative process and how we use our personal stories of tragedy and triumph to make art.

Beyond that, Voices of the Soft-bellied Warrior provides a good overview of traditional and alternative healing approaches, and makes a solid case for a holistic blending and balancing of the two.

This writer tells a compelling story, allowing herself to be vulnerable, yet keeping her writing crisp and sharp. I never once felt the emotional manipulation associated with many books and especially movies of this genre. Mary Saracino confronts some truly sensitive issues with honesty, literally holding up a mirror as she grows through the healing process, but also with professionalism and respect for the reader. After reading this book, I want to read more of her work.

D. M. Solis

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