Guest Post by Beth Fehlbaum

Today, Beth Fehlbaum, author of Courage in Patience: A Story of Hope for Those Who Have Endured Abuse (Kunati) has agreed to do a guest post on TheReadingZone. As a fellow teacher, I love hearing from writers who are also teachers! I always hope that their hard work will inspire me to put a pen to paper more often. :) Beth is currently teaching and doing a blog tour for her debut novel, Courage in Patience.

Have you ever seen the t-shirt that says, “I will not have a temper tantrum. I will not chew gum in class. I will always be on my best behavior. I am the teacher. I am the teacher. I am the teacher..” ?

I am a teacher in my “day job”– and school started for this year just three weeks ago, which means my students and I are all still in the ‘honeymoon phase’, so I haven’t ordered that shirt for myself just yet. Now, when spring fever kicks in around the middle of March, I’ll probably have that t-shirt slogan tattooed on the palm of my hand so I can see it up close when I smack myself in the face several times a day and ask myself what on earth possessed me to think I could teach these insane children anything!

Around Christmastime last year, I signed a contract with Kunati Books and Fed-Exed it back to them. At that point, I added a new profession to my resume': professional writer. Since that time, in just about the same amount of time it takes for an infant to develop from conception to birth, my debut novel, Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse, has become a reality. I’m juggling my day job of teacher with my night job as author.

I wrote Courage in Patience partly because of a therapeutic assignment. I went into recovery for childhood sexual abuse, almost four years ago. I have always written stories and poetry as a way of processing what was going on in my life, so it was natural for me to use writing as a way of working through my grief, anger, and shame. I shared them with my therapist, and he suggested that I try writing a novel. It took me about four months, trying to pull myself out of my own head enough to write about someone other than myself. Then, I gave myself permission to imagine how it would be for a fourteen or fifteen-year-old girl to be removed from her mother and stepfather’s home after being sexually abused by her stepfather for six years, and placed in the care of her biological father, who she had never known. With that premise, Courage in Patience was conceived.

I wrote it mostly in the middle of the night; I wasn’t sleeping well at the time any way, and, as the story grew in my mind, I would wake at two in the morning, and realize that my “Muse” was already hard at work. All that was needed to get the story down in black-and-white was for me to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and get a Diet Coke before I settled in at my kitchen table with my laptop. I’d write from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. or so– and have to drag myself away from my keyboard to go get my face on and do my hair for work. I look back on that time now and I have no idea how I functioned. I think I was hyper-caffeinated and just plain driven to tell my protagonist, Ashley’s, story.

Of course, Courage in Patience went through many metamorphoses, sort of the way an embryo looks like a funky little shrimp before it grows with time and nurturing into what we recognize as a baby.
Like any new parent, I’m tired right now, but it’s a good kind of fatigue– the kind I wouldn’t trade for anything because I worked so hard to get this baby into the world, and I love it as only a proud new parent can. It is my hope that readers will love Courage in Patience– and Ashley– as much as I do.

Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum

From the publisher: After six years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from her stepfather, 14-year-old Ashley finally finds the courage to reveal the painful details of her experiences with her mother, who refuses to acknowledge the problem and turns her back on her daughter. After confiding in her teacher—the only adult whom Ashley can trust—she is removed from her home and sent to live with her father and his second wife, Beverly, an English teacher. Nurtured by Beverly, an extraordinarily positive influence in her life, Ashley and a summer school class of troubled teens learn to face their fears and discover who they really are.

Courage in Patience: A Story of Hope for Those Who Have Endured Abuse is a powerful, gut-wrenching, heart-wrenching story of sexual abuse and survival. Ashley has been abused by her stepfather for years, ignored by her mother for even longer, and slowly destroying herself in a bid to escape. When she finally turns to a trusted teacher, CPS is called in and Ashely is pulled from her nightmare of a home. When CPS contacts her birth father she moves to Patience, Texas to live with him and his family.

The beginning of the book is graphic. Fehlbaum details the abuse that Ashley faces on a daily basis. However, the second half of the book is about Ashley’s road to survival and thriving in Patience. She begins to live a normal life- making friends, getting to know her new family, and dealing with small-town politics. However, she still struggles with the ramifications of her abuse on a daily basis. She begins seeing a therapist, along with her father, mother, and younger brother.

I really appreciated how Fehlbaum showed a true-to-life picture of sexual abuse by following Ashley through her abuse and her road to survival. While some might feel the book focuses on too many stories, I disagree. Ashley’s teenage voice rang true and her story felt like I was reading a memoir. Her story is tragic and horrific, and her road to recovery is bumpy and imperfect. To me, that seemed more realistic than many other books. It also gave the reader a picture of that road to recovery, whereas many other sexual abuse-themed books focus only on the abuse itself.

This is a graphic book, one that I would recommend only for teens and adults. However, it is very powerful and I believe it is an important book.

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