An Interview With Joy Jennings on Her Experiences With Sexual Violence

Sexual harassment and assault victim Joy Jennings experienced many incidences of assault as a child before becoming a victim of sexual assault as a woman. She is now an author working to bring awareness regarding sexual harassment, abuse and assault. Jennings’ troubling story is a reminder that violence towards women is still ever-present in our society.

Q: Joy, why did you feel it was so important to tell your story?

A: Sexual harassment and assault is still such a large problem in our society and not nearly enough women and girls are coming forward. They are either too frightened to speak up, not taught how to or even that they can. They don’t understand what is considered sexual assault or that such crimes are committed against them. They also fear not being taken seriously and these are all the same problems I faced. Another reason is that girls are becoming more accepting of this rape culture and therefore more males are convinced that it is ok to treat women badly when it isn’t. I needed to tell my story so that other women can learn from my mistakes and to help protect themselves. Ultimately, I am hoping for new male attitudes and behaviors with a shift towards social change.

Q: You had many incidents as a young child that you decided to keep quiet about. Why do you think sexual harassment and assault frequently goes unreported?

A: As a child, if your parents have not had that talk with you, you are left uninformed, unaware and unprepared. It is a difficult job for parents to protect your children and they couldn’t possibly cover all the possibilities that their child might come across, so it is tough job but nevertheless, a crucial one.

Q: Recently, the University of British Colombia went under fire for making a mockery of sexual assault when only 6 of their 273 complaints were formally investigated. What do you make of this?

A: Those figures are disgusting, but not surprising. Sexual assault is never taken seriously enough and reinforces why women and girls are too afraid to come forward. This is the same problem I faced and it needs to change. Women need to be empowered to be courageous by example, and situations like these only set us back and do more damage. It continues to disappoint and infuriate me.

Q: What are some of the lasting effects that have stayed with you after so much abuse?

A: I continue to suffer in all areas of my life. I still experience night terrors, anxiety and stress, especially when around men, and have some relationship issues. I become an unintentional nervous wreck over the simplest of things too. As an example, a man offered me assistance with my groceries last week and he put his hands on my bags. I froze into a petrified terror and felt as if I was being violated all over again. That is not normal functioning but it is who I have become.

Q: In your experience, what are some ways we as a society can prevent sexual harassment and assault?

A: We need to be teaching this subject in schools. Young boys need to be taught what are considered sexual crimes and simply not to commit them. They need to be taught how to respect women and how to behave in public. Girls need to be shown how to handle certain situations, what to do, where to go and who to report to. Parents need to do their part also. This is a major issue and we absolutely have to educate our kids about this.

Q: If you could give victims of sexual abuse one piece of advice, what would it be?

A: Don’t be afraid and speak up. Screw them! This is your life, your body and you have the right not be assaulted. These predators are banking on you not saying anything and are afraid of being punished, so don’t let them get away with it. Report them! Speak to your kids, educate them about potential dangers and how to handle situations. Stay safe and please, whatever you do, don’t remain silent any longer.

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For further information about Joy Jennings, please visit her  website.

 

Book Review: I’m Not Your “Baby” by Joy Jennings

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I’m Not Your “Baby” by Joy Jennings is a poignant look at one woman’s personal experiences with sexual harassment, assault and rape.

Telling this story must have taken a great deal of courage on the part of the author. Victims of sexual violence are so often silenced by their fear and I commend Jennings for putting it all out there. And trust me, there are tons of terrible encounters to tell. Many instances in the book were very uncomfortable to read and I can’t imagine how it must have felt to actually live them.

What I found most distressing throughout the book was how Jennings’ experiences with sexual harassment and assault were so often downplayed by those around her. Being told to “just ignore it” or the ever popular “boys will be boys” excuse is unfortunately so reflective of our society. All too often, it seems as though the victims are pegged as the problem and that they should be the ones to change their behavior or appearance as to not entice abusers.

Another aspect that struck me was the degree of frequency Jennings was harassed and assaulted. I feel as though this woman has to be the unluckiest person in regards to the men. It’s so disturbing that there are women out there who repeatedly have to endure sexual violence. I feel blessed to have a fair amount of male friends – none of which would ever behave remotely close to the way hers did.

Normally, I feel uneasy about reviewing a memoir. There are so many useless memoirs out these days (I’m sorry, but having parents and a childhood doesn’t of itself qualify you to write a memoir). When I agreed to review Jennings’ story it was because I felt that there was something to be learned by the horrifying events that happened in her life. I respect the author immensely for her bravery and for sharing her story with her readers.

Note: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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To My Fellow Indie Authors…

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To my fellow indie authors,

I see you. I see you sipping your third coffee, trying desperately to pick out the typos from your novel. I see you Googling how to format for Kindle on your laptop. I see you begging the one friend you know who is Photoshop-friendly to please, please, please create a book cover for you. I see you. I am you.

Sure, self-publishing has its perks. We get full say over every decision made concerning our work (a double edged sword, I assure you). We have no contract signing our creative masterpiece away. And if we’re lucky to sell even a quarter of the amount self-published author Amanda Hockings has, the profits mostly remain in our own wallet. But the obstacles we unavoidably face without an agent and publishing house are a bitch, to say the least. You would think that in an age so axed on technology that tweeting about your book would be enough but it simply isn’t. There are blog tours, book trailers, Goodread giveaways, and the list goes on and on.

I see you and I know how difficult this literary game is – I’ve been there myself – which is why I have put so much emphasis on indie writers here on the blog. 90% of what I review comes from self-published authors. This isn’t a random occurrence. There are loads of great undiscovered authors out there and I hope to have the opportunity to share some of them with my followers.

If you are an indie writer looking for a review, check out my review policy page for more information.

Book Review: Where Death is a Hunter by Christopher Stookey

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Where Death is a Hunter is a fast-paced medical thriller by author Christopher Stookey and an absolute gripping read. The book kicks off right at the moment where all goes wrong and doesn’t let up until the very end. It tells the story of Hannah Fâtier, an anesthesiologist who is accused of malpractice when a patient dies under her care in the OR. The more Hannah goes over the details of the event however, the less they make sense. As the pieces of the puzzle come together it becomes increasingly obvious that someone has framed her.

Medical thrillers are a tricky genre to write without them becoming a lexicon of medical mumbo-jumbo. This could especially have been the case considering the author, Christopher Stookey, also happens to be an MD. Thankfully, he succeeds in creating a very comprehensible novel with just enough hospital terms to make it believable but not enough to loose his readers.

Where Death is a Hunter is the type of book that refuses to let you put it down and I credit Stookey’s pacing skills for that (seriously, I read it in one day). He has written a novel mostly devoid of “fluff” which is incredibly refreshing . There’s little that is capable of losing my attention faster than reading paragraph after paragraph of unnecessary text (fillers, as I call them) and it’s great to see an author that keeps it to the point.

The characters are also very solid. I like how we get to know Hannah’s background bit by bit and I especially like her own personal growth throughout the story. I won’t lie – I had a pretty good idea who had “done it” so to speak, but wasn’t sure about the “why” until it was revealed.

Where Death is a Hunter is a fantastic novel and I recommend it to fans of the thriller/mystery genre. I look forward to reading more novels by Stookey in the future.

Note: I received this novel by the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Review: Pretty Dancer by Cora Graham

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Pretty Dancer is a contemporary YA romance novel by first time author Cora Graham. The story revolves around Lilly, an aspiring dancer who hasn’t had the easiest home life so far. As she fights to overcome her past, she must also learn to trust and open herself to the possibility of loving again.

Yes, it was a little long and dragged on in some places. Yes, there were some minor typos. And yes, the dance choreography descriptions weren’t my favorite aspects of the story (I blame this on being a dance instructor myself – occupational hazard).  But honestly, those minor issues didn’t take away from how much I loved this book. Let me say it again; I. Loved. This. Book. It had so much heart. Lilly’s relationship with her twin brother Luke was my favorite depiction of sibling dynamics in a book so far. As the story progresses, you begin to understand why Luke’s overprotectiveness is so appropriate regarding Lilly. The intrigue surrounding their father and what happened between them keep you guessing until the very end and for once, I didn’t see the truth coming from a mile away. And Carter? SA-WOOON! Holy hell. Seriously, the build is so slow it felt like the biggest literary tease ever. However readers don’t despair; it is so worth the wait. The car scene between Carter and Lilly? HOT, HOT, HOT.

The only things I would change about this book are some minor editing and the removal of the prologue. Honestly, the book would do nicely without it. It seemed unnecessary and actually had me thinking that I wouldn’t like the book (which, thankfully, I totally did).

If you’re a fan of YA, teen angst and romance then pick up Pretty Dancer. You will not be disappointed!

(Also, enter to win a free ecopy of Pretty Dancer here -> Pretty Dancer Giveaway, contest ends November 20th at 9pm Atlantic time)

Note: I received this novel by the author in exchange with an honest review.

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The Importance of the Written Word

Power of Words

Written words have power. True, it’s possible that being a writer has made me a tad bias on the matter, however I would argue that the written word is the most powerful tool that we as a species have created. Of course, there is the historical significance of it. Writing makes it possible to document the past with a sense of permanence that wasn’t conceivable before its creation. It endures. Think of how unsuccessful the telephone game generally goes and imagine a time when this was the only means to record events. And while I understand the enormity of these implications on human development – and trust me, the written word has been vital – it’s not really what I am referring to when I give weight to the subject at hand.

I’m talking about the intimacy of words. How they connect us closely with our readers. How, through our writings, we are able to invite someone into our most private thoughts. I’m referring to the written word’s ability to share a person’s ideas from decades ago, centuries ago, millenniums ago. Because that’s the magic of written words; they are exactly the same as the moment the author penned them. Through them, the reader can understand the feelings and ideas intended. Written words can transport us to another place without physically moving an inch because they don’t follow the laws of physics. They are a time machine. A space shuttle. An ocean. They can make us fall in love with someone without ever meeting them in person – just one example of why long-distance online dating is so successful. Written words can also harm. For most, they are massively more offensive than their spoken equivalent. Speaking ill of someone is never good, but writing nasty words about them? Well, that can ruin lives. The words can be printed, emailed, passed around for all to see. They can be reread again and again and again. Written words can kill. I read piece about German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who wrote a story so sad in the 1700s that there was a string of suicides following its release. His book, The Sufferings of Young Werther, connected so strongly with young men in situations similar to those of the protagonist that they submitted themselves to the same end fate as the character.

Written words have power and in the end, they are the only form of immortality we know.

Use them wisely.

(Photo credits: Wikimedia.org)

November’s Influential Woman Writer

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to regularly post pieces highlighting influential women authors in history. I feel very strongly about sharing these stories with you because in the end, we as women are the key to our own advancement. We have the ability to reshape the status quo. It’s my belief that by letting ourselves be inspired by the people who built the foundation that raised us out of the trenches as a gender we will continue to strive for equality. These aren’t meant to be biographical posts; if you wish to read the person’s short life description you can refer to Wikipedia. My goal is simply to share these writers with you and hope that it peaks your interest enough to read their work.

The first woman I’ve decided to feature was an author, civil rights activist and poet who won numerous awards for her nonfiction work. She recited words of diversity and equality in her poem On the Pulse of Morning at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration and her 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. She was a brilliant writer and an inspirational human being. If you haven’t already guessed it, today’s piece is about the legendary Maya Angelou.

Although she had many talents in the performing arts – dance and drama to list a few – it is in writing that Angelou focused most on by the end of the 1950s. After returning from a tour in Europe, a friend urged Angelou to write about her life experiences – mainly her tumultuous childhood and young adult life. This important piece of work became her enormously successful memoir and an immediate bestseller. Angelou continued to break new ground when she wrote the drama Georgia, Georgia. This screenplay became the first by an African-American woman to be produced. While living in Cairo, Egypt, she served as editor of the English language weekly The Arab Observer. In Ghana, she served as an instructor and assistant administrator at the University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama, worked as feature editor for the African Review and wrote for The Ghanaian Times and the Ghanaian Broadcasting Company. While abroad, she read and studied voraciously, learning French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Fanti. It is in this period that she met the American leader Malcolm X, whom she planned to help with his Organization of African American Unity, however he was assassinated before this was made possible. Angelou remained active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. until his assassination.

Angelou was invited by successive Presidents of the United States to serve in various capacities; President Ford appointed her to the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, President Carter invited her to serve on the Presidential Commission for the International Year of the Woman and President Clinton requested that she compose a poem to read at his inauguration.

I could go on and on about Maya Angelou’s accolades however I’ve chosen to include one of her poems instead and let her work speak for itself.

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

 

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

 

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Maya Angelou

GIVEAWAY! Pretty Dancer by Cora Graham

Do you know what’s better than books? FREE books, that’s what.

Enter your name and email in the comments section below for a shot at winning an ecopy of Cora Graham’s novel Pretty Dancer. Contest ends November 20th at 9pm Atlantic time.

pretty dancer

Meet Lilly – talented dancer, quick mouthed, take no shit tough girl who’s also good at hiding the fact that she’s scared. She doesn’t believe in true love or happily ever afters. Unless you count the unbreakable love she has for her overprotective, bullheaded twin brother, who also happens to be her knight in shining armor – which she doesn’t. Kind of hard to love when you can’t trust, and trust was something that got shattered along with the rest of her years ago. A lot was taken from her at a young age. She’s never gotten over it as much as she’s just refused to deal with it.

Her twin brother and quirky best friend are the only ones she lets see her true self. Her only dream is to get accepted into The Elite Academy of Dance and spend the rest of her life dancing on a stage, away from all that haunts her. To her, that’s easier than dealing with the demons from her past and the scars they left on the person she has become today. She’s more than willing to tuck all those dark and nasty things away, and go on pretending. Never hoping for anything more. Never allowing herself to feel.

That is, until a certain guy walks into her life like he was always meant to be there and refuses to go away. He turns her world upside down and confuses her to no end. He makes her wonder if there really is something more worth fighting her demons for. But then a secret comes to light that has her questioning if her shattered heart could have been saved all its hurt so many years ago.

A story about a girl who fights to overcome her past and dances her way into the future she wants. And maybe, just maybe, along the way finds a way to trust again, to love again.

Love, Humor, Passion, Artistry, a story of acceptance.

Book Review: Missed Chances

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Missed Chances is a collection of five short stories that all feature themes of love and loss. The book was edited by M.R. Nelson and the authors include L.M. Montgomery, Kate Chopin, Rabindranath Tagore, Helen Hunt Jackson and Constance Fenimore Woolson. What is unique about this book is that although all of the writers lived in the 1800s, their stories are still relevant and have stood the test of time. They are heartwarming, melancholic, with just enough humor to keep it lighthearted (Aunt Philippa, I’m looking at you).

Speaking of Aunt Philippa, she is by far my favorite character in the book. She’s a man-hating woman and an absolute riot to read. Her simple explanation of “that’s the men for you” for every undesirable situation that arises with the opposite sex is funny to say the least. I don’t want to give too much away but there’s a cute twist at the end that I rather enjoyed. Bonus: the story takes place in PEI, which isn’t too far from my corner of the world.

The stand out story for me is The Victory by Rabindranath Tagore. As silly as it may sound, it reminds me of a rap battle gone wrong between two poets (read it – you’ll know what I mean) which obviously wasn’t how the author intended it when he wrote it back in the 19th century but for some reason that’s how I imagine the scene would go down if it happened in today’s day and age. Rap battle aside, Shekhar’s decision at the end reminds us that it’s important to never give up as we don’t know what the future holds. Sure, the ending is sad but then who doesn’t love a good love tragedy?

I’m really happy that the publishing company, Annorlunda Books, approached me to review this book. I wasn’t familiar with any other the authors and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to discover their work. Some stories I liked better than others, but overall it was a pleasant read. The book may not cater to everyone depending on taste however if you’re a fan of romantic tales from the Victorian era, pick up Missed Chances – you’re sure to enjoy it.

Note: This book was given to me by the publishing company in exchange with an honest review.

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