Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Convicted Survivors

Maria Suarez and Elizbeth Dermody Leonard

The Orange County Register recently ran an engrossing article about Maria Suarez, a sex trafficking victim who was imprisoned by her abuser for five years in the late 1970s and then imprisoned for 22 more years in the California Institution for Women for the 1981 death of her abuser. The abuser was murdered by a neighbor, but Suarez was unjustly convicted of the crime. The story does end happily, with Suarez now free (she was pardoned a few years ago by the Governor of California) and working to raise awareness about the very real issue of human trafficking. SUNY Press author Elizabeth Dermody Leonard met Suarez years ago, while doing research for her dissertation on women who had been imprisoned for the death of their abusers.

[Maria's] case also reveals a ray of hope. That's because someone—Elizabeth Dermody Leonard—was paying attention. And she helped kick off the process that would eventually free Suarez, now 49.

Friday, Suarez spoke before a group gathered at the Borders bookstore in Costa Mesa brought together by the nonprofit Live2free, a group that seeks to raise awareness about human trafficking. And it was Leonard, a sociologist and criminologist who teaches at Vanguard University, whom Suarez acknowledged as her "inspiration" during her talk.

"She's the one who actually started to open up files (of people who) were wrongfully convicted... And a lot of people started coming out, to be free. And... I thank you for that because you are part of my freedom," Suarez told Leonard, who was in the audience.

During the time that Leonard was meeting with Suarez, she was working on Convicted Survivors, which details the experiences of women imprisoned for killing their male abusers and their treatment by the criminal justice system. Leonard’s in-depth interviews reveal what Maria Suarez and countless other women experience in these situations: they are slow to identify themselves as battered women and continue to minimize the violence done to them, make numerous and varied attempts to end abusive relationships, and are systematically failed by the systems they look to for help. Ultimately these stories are ones of hope, and in the case of Maria Suarez, that hope of freedom sustained her for years.
The first time Leonard saw Suarez after Suarez' release was in the spring of 2006, when Suarez returned to her former prison to see a play based on Leonard's research. Leonard says she strives to either talk by phone or meet the former inmates in person at least once after their release. She notes that their voices, among other things, change dramatically.
"It's like they're 20 years younger."

When she saw Suarez for the first time as a free woman, Leonard noted the difference: Shoulders back; a confident stance, a smile.

"She came back to the prison to help others. I can't imagine the type of courage it takes to walk back (behind) those walls, to hear the sound of the door clanging shut," Leonard says.

"But she knew that it gave hope to the others, and she wanted to encourage hope."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Put up your dukes

Binnie Klein is many things: a psychotherapist, a lecturer at Yale University's Department of Psychiatry, and even the host of a popular weekly music and interview program on WPKN radio. She's also an avid boxer. One of these things does not fit with the others, right? Binnie took up boxing in her mid-fifties, and the sport has helped her undergo a fascinating midlife transformation. She's written a new book on her love affair with boxing, called Blows to the Head: How Boxing Changed My Mind. The Jewish Ledger recently interviewed Binnie about the book, boxing, and how the ring has helped her explore both her roots and a surprising chapter of the Jewish immigrant experience. You can read the full interview here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let them eat cake

Mary Hallab, author of Vampire God, was the guest of honor at a book launch party last week, thrown by her friends and colleagues. She sent some photos of the party. Remember the book cover image?

Well, here it is again...on a cake:

That's a pretty good likeness! And we love the subtle shadings of the blue frosting—the more unnatural the frosting color the more we want to taste it. Mary says the cake was made by Sarah and Phong Nguyen, "amazing cake makers (and artist and short story writers—both University of Central Missouri faculty)." Here's Mary cutting into the creepy cake:

Mary's pals certainly know how to throw a fun book launch party. Great job, all around. Thanks for sharing these photos, Mary.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Albany Antiquarian Book Fair

SUNY Press was one of 60 exhibitors at the 35th Annual Albany, NY Antiquarian Book Fair in the historic Washington Avenue Armory. Dealers from at least ten states and Canada were selling antiquarian and out-of-print books, manuscripts, autographs, postcards, maps, posters, photographs and ephemera. Because many of the dealers specialized in New York/Northeast items, we brought along some of our Excelsior titles, which highlight the cultural and historical impact of New York state on the world.

We had a steady stream of people browsing and buying all day, and the fair itself seemed very well attended. Thanks to our partners at the Albany Institute of History & Art for sponsoring this event once again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cooking your way through the Hudson Valley

Food historian and writer Peter G. Rose's new cookbook, Summer Pleasures, Winter Pleasures, offers a variety of recipes that spotlight the historical and culinary heritage of New York's Hudson Valley. Peter was interviewed in today's Albany Times Union. The interview is followed by a series of recipes from the book. We hope you have fun creating these Hudson Valley dishes in your kitchen.

As a teaser, here's one of the recipes from the book:

Pork Chops with Pears and Blue Cheese

Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 thick pork chops
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 large pears, quartered, cored and peeled
1/2 cup white wine or water
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

In a frying pan, heat oil. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and fry until browned on both sides.

In the meantime, cut each pear quarter lengthwise into 3 slices. Add pears to the browned chops, along with the wine or water. Cover pan, reduce heat, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the chops are done.

Uncover pan and sprinkle crumbled blue cheese on top. Turn off heat, replace the cover and allow pan to stand for a few minutes.

Peter will be at "Sip & Sign," a free book signing with 25 authors, from 1 to 4 pm Nov. 14 at Millbrook Vineyards & Winery, 26 Wing Road, Millbrook, NY. Call (845) 677-8383 for details.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Saving Troy

Troy, New York native Bill Patrick was interviewed in the Albany Times Union about his book, Saving Troy: A Year with Firefighters and Paramedics in a Battered City. Patrick worked with firefighters in the city for over a year while he gathered their stories for his book. He explains how this opportunity afforded him a different view of the city he'd grown up in:

"For one thing, you go everyplace. And you see every kind of person—every class, every walk of life—and you go inside their houses. Which is even weirder. I mean you can wander around the streets and see most of these people, but at 2 in the morning to be in their living room stitching them up or delivering a baby or trying to stop the bleeding coming out of somebody, that's a whole different situation."

For more information on the new paperback edition, visit our website.