Immigrant Families: Forever Scarred by Forced Separation

Note: Some of the following comes from book three in my Appalachian Families series, which I’m in the process of finishing.

Never mind that President Trump signed an executive order today to stop families from being separated at the border—because, at this moment, they still are. For these families, the damage is already done. I know this only too well.

That’s because the day my children were torn from my arms, I cried so much it’s a wonder I didn’t turn into dust and blow away.

It was 21 years ago, and yet the pain was so great it sometimes still haunts me like it happened yesterday. Then my heart feels so full that I am afraid to cry, to shed my tears, worried they will sweep me all the way down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico, where I will end up floating in the Atlantic Ocean. Except once there, I will still be crying, unable to ever stop, becoming one with the water.

I heard the judge that day, the day my world changed forever. But his words didn’t make it all the way to my cerebral cortex. They sizzled inside my ears, bouncing back and forth while my brain tried to grasp their meaning.

How can you take my children?

Before my thoughts could even become words, the judge spoke. “You can appeal the decision.” Then, a few words from my attorney. I didn’t even hear what she said. All the energy I had been holding tightly inside dissipated as quickly as if I was a balloon animal that someone stuck a pin in. My knees gave out and I crumpled to the floor.

I’m sure this decades-old pain haunts my four children, as well. The scars are hidden beneath our skin, and riddled with shrapnel that no one sees. But we know they’re there.

Our scars remain today, and while we tried to overcome the damage done, it was impossible. Too many things happened during our three months apart, words spoken, actions taken, that were irreversible. But the most crucial element, I believe, to hinder our healing, was the individual thoughts we carried with us from that day forward. Why did you leave me? How could you do this to me? When will you come get me?

And then, when I couldn’t go get them—because the law forbid it—this: What did I do wrong? Why don’t you want me anymore? Why don’t you love me?

What I’ve personally heard about the current family separation, which is amoral and inhumane, hit me so hard it took me a good long week to even write about it. My first thought, upon learning that parents were told their children were being taken for a bath—only to not be returned—was of the Holocaust. Similar lies were told then, too. Jews, Poles, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, many of their families were torn apart, never to be reunited. My first public comment, on a friend’s Facebook page, was “Can anyone say Gestapo?”


Make no mistake, following a forced separation, these immigrant families will never be the same again. It is unnatural for children to be separated from their parents in this way. The child, the mother, the father—all three will carry these scars for the rest of their lives. Such a separation creates a hole in a child’s heart. A hole that will be filled with sadness, self-doubt, and anger. Anger that may later turn into rage.

While these feelings may diminish over time, they will never completely disappear. At best, they will rise to the surface during stressful situations, boiling over like a pan of hot milk left unattended on the kitchen stove. At worst, they will be buried deeper than our cemetery dead, so far down in the dark earth that you cannot see or feel them.

Being plagued with a gnawing sense of hopelessness condemns you to a life lived looking over your shoulder, forever trapped in the past. This failure to process your feelings will impede your ability to grow, to move forward. Even after you are reunited—if you are. But make no mistake, you won’t be the same person ever again.

Neither will your children.

The best you can hope for is to tap into your own well of resilience, to keep going. To try and thrive. Counseling can help. But even a trained therapist cannot always dispel the fear, or reverse the damage done to these children. Or their parents.

The Department of Homeland Security says that since May, 2,342 children were placed in what the world views as cages. (The practice of U.S. officials keeping children locked up is not new; nor does this number include thousands of other detained children, who entered the U.S. without their parents.)

Aside from the trauma these families must endure, what else has such a “zero-tolerance” policy wrought? Have we returned to a Dickensian era, a land fit only for the orphaned Oliver Twist? I thought internment ended with the Japanese. Have we learned nothing?

Apparently not. Even though we’ve known for more than 100 years that keeping children away from their families is traumatic. President Theodore Roosevelt convened the first White House Conference on Children in 1909. There they determined that “children should not be deprived of (home life)” by being placed in an institution. Instead, they should be placed with foster families.

Later, numerous studies found that children raised in orphanages suffered from “the inability to bond, inability to effectively problem solve, inability to turn to others for help, poor peer relations, disciplinary problems, disruptive behavior.” And the current detention camps make those orphanages look like a playground. Given that these children range in age from babies to teenager, how many of the younger ones have already been molested by an older child? Or a caretaker? Judging from the disturbing video and audio clips, the sounds and sights of sobbing, traumatized children, these places are obviously worse than orphanages, which lost favor with the American public in the 1960s. No wonder the world, including the Pope and the United Nations, has condemned the U.S. for its actions. At least orphans had trained caretakers who comforted them when they cried.

But this basic human right is being denied these children. Children who should soon be reunited with their parents—but aren’t yet.

The very notion that no one is allowed to comfort these distraught children makes me furious! How is that even possible in this day and age, when we know that such cold and callous behavior is abuse? When we know that human touch is critical to good mental and physical health? That such a pattern can lead to severe emotional problems?

As proof, consider the famous artificial mother experiment conducted by psychologist Harry Harlow. He showed how crucial comfort is to humans, when, given a choice between a cloth mother and a wire one, isolated baby rhesus monkeys preferred spending 18 hours a day with the cloth mother, as opposed to spending only one hour a day with the wire one. This, even though the wire mother held the bottle the babies nursed from!

In an op-ed to The Washington Post, former First Lady Laura Bush spoke up about this lack of compassion and empathy. There, she told how Barbara Bush once held and cuddled a crying child who was dying of AIDS, apparently when no one else would.

Let’s learn from her, and do better. We can. We must!

* * *

Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Reflections about ‘This Is Us’ on Super Bowl Sunday

I imagine the number of people watching This Is Us after tonight’s Super Bowl LII will be record breaking.

I will be among them.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

In fact, I specifically hooked up by cable box today for just that reason. Not because I want to see Jack Pearson die, though. Because personally, I’d love it if we were treated to a Bobby Ewing moment and another shower scene like the one in Dallas, where we learn the entire previous season was but a bad dream.

No, I want to see tonight’s epic show because I love, love, love This Is Us. It’s the only show I’ve watched faithfully (binging a few episodes here and there as I have time) since I saw the first episode in 2016.

And because the crock-pot fire that left us all dangling at the edge of a mountaintop is one of the best cliffhangers in TV history. (Second only to the Dallas shower scene.) And I’m a sucker for cliffhangers.

I also love good writing, and This Is Us offers some of the best and most realistic writing on TV. Coming from a family where addiction has reigned supreme for decades, where alcoholism was my father’s best friend, and where losing someone you love is more the norm than not, I can relate to Jack. To Rebecca. To each of their children.

The writing is poignant and powerful, and seamless. Living in West Virginia, where we lead the nation in fatal overdoses, whether from narcotic painkillers (opioids) or Heroin(e) or fentanyl, I’m no stranger to the emotional fallout from such loss. Neither are any of my friends and neighbors.

The writers have captured all the raw emotions: in Kevin’s battle with addiction and recovery, and with Kate’s, too. As well as in Randall’s fight with perfectionism and anxiety—problems which distort the lives of so many ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics).

Equally important, though, is how the show’s writers have traced the non-linear path of the adult Pearson children’s addictions. They have shown us that losing a parent is a difficult trauma to recover from. We carry those scars the rest of our lives. The wounds may eventually fade, but they forever mark us as different. Our lives are permanently delineated: before and after.

Loss changes us. Losing someone like a father, a sister, or a daughter does this irreversibly. For the last year, I’ve followed the travails of the Pearson family as I’ve lived through some of my own. Watching Jack and Rebecca’s touching love story, as triplets Kate, Kevin and Randall work through their heartache, has helped me to cope with my own losses.

Death cannot be undone. We cannot go back in time and begin exercising, or eating nutritious food, or being more moderate in all things, so our kidneys don’t give out from diabetes, or our hearts from cardiovascular disease. We can only start with today and change our habits now, in this moment.

Neither can we undo the damage we caused someone we love once they’re gone forever. Kevin confronted that during his recovery, and suffered immensely for it. For opting not to talk to his father on the phone the night of the fire. To make amends, to apologize for sharp words and cold actions.

Most of us would do things different, if we had the chance. Wouldn’t we? We wouldn’t be so quick to anger, so easy to offend, so determined to nurse a grudge. Not if we knew the true and irrevocable cost. Our vision would be less farsighted. We would see that most perceived wrongs are not personal affronts. It isn’t, in other words, all about us.

This Is Us has also given us a storyline where multiple births, adoption, and a biracial family is the norm—not the exception. In all these things and more, it teaches us important life lessons about love and tolerance and forgiveness—whether the person in need of forgiving shares our bed, our genes, or our history. Even if the person is the same one staring back at us from our bathroom mirror.

It offers us a look at what tragedy, triumph, and heartache look like, all torn from the pages of real life. People like you and me, who experience all these things.

Like me. After no word from her in more than a year, my missing daughter emailed me one month ago. I still don’t know where she is, but it was a relief just to learn she is alive. But that is all I know, for her email told me nothing other than that.

As my own story plays out, I find solace in knowing that I’m not alone. Other people have survived worse, and they’re still standing. Just like the Pearsons will, after Jack dies.

Loss can change us—but it doesn’t have to define us.

* * * * *


Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Hello 2018—Let’s Turn That Whisper Into a Shout!

As we bid the last 365 days goodbye, I keep thinking that 2017 reads like one gigantic, above-the-fold headline, complete with a star-studded Hollywood cast. One woman after another—Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, and Salma Hayek, to name a few—boldly stepped onto a very different red carpet, under an intense glare of media scrutiny.

This is not fake news.

People are calling what happened in 2017 a “watershed moment,” where cataclysmic events collide, creating a point of no return. If so, then we can only hope that trend continues in 2018.

Women have been accusing men of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault for centuries. The past few decades have seen an increasingly vocal number of such complaints. But for the most part, women have done what they usually do: suffer in silence.

But last year a slew of prominent and powerful women raised their voices in a cacophony, admitting to having been victimized in just this way. Is this why society as a whole has begun listening, and is more outraged than normal? Or is it because the highest position in the land is held by a man who has not just been accused of such criminal conduct—but who has minimized his own sexual assaults?

I imagine it’s a bit of both. Women are fed up with being forced to live like this, as if any vulgar man who wants to can fondle them at will—and then fire them when they report the bad behavior to their superiors. So it is that powerful Hollywood women have set an example for the unknowns in this battle, women who have silently carried their shame, but who have been no less abused by the Senator Roy Moores of this pandemic.

And we are done holding our collective tongues.

We, each one of us, I believe, have such a story to tell. At least one—if not more. This is why: recently I was one of three women who randomly met and began discussing the one in three statistic put forth by the World Health Organization. Less than three minutes later, we had established that all three of us—100-percent—had been victims of sexual assault.

That wasn’t the first time this has happened. I feel like I’m trapped in Groundhog Day, where I’m forced to repeat the same conversation, again and again. As a result, from the years of professional and personal research I’ve conducted, I believe it happens to one in two women, if not every woman.

And we are tired of the status quo. Frustrated about waiting for someone else to help us, or stand up for us. So we’re taking matters into our own hands, and naming names. And that may be the only action that matters, when you see powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer step down from long-held positions of prestige and power.

Such serious repercussions tell me that this watershed moment is here to stay. So, in keeping with these feisty, female silence breakers, I’d like to do the same. #MeToo.

Readers of this column and my news reporting know I’ve been speaking out about sexual violence against women since 1988—30 years. In 1990, I broke my own silence when writing about my personal experience as a victim of sexual abuse (albeit quite subtly) in Vintage Berry Wine, my then-weekly newspaper column in the Preston County Journal.

And in 2011, my first memoir was published. It was titled, appropriately, Sister of Silence. SOS is about the traumatic effects of keeping such sexual violence a secret. The fact that students from Johns Hopkins University to UC Berkeley have heard of it tells me that we want—indeed, need—to hear from other women like ourselves.

I’ve not been silent since then—with one notable exception.

In January 1998, six months after moving 3,000 miles to take a job as a news reporter with The Tracy Press, a little daily in San Joaquin County, California, I was fired. The events leading up to the loss of my job were so minor, in comparison to what many women have endured, that it barely deserves a footnote in this watershed moment of history.

But throughout 2017, as I’ve listened to the voice of one feminist after another, I’ve returned to that unsettling time. And for me to continue speaking out on behalf of other women, I know I must now break my own 20-year silence.

Jon Peters, then-managing editor, hired me in August 1997. I quickly earned a reputation as a hard-working, fearless reporter who went the extra mile for every article I wrote, and who willingly drove to nearby crime-ridden Stockton to investigate a gang story I’d been assigned. Not once during that time did anyone at the paper tell me I was doing a bad job. Quite the opposite, in fact.

So when Peters called me into his office and fired me, I knew. I immediately knew what had happened: Paul “Spud” Hilton, the city editor, enjoyed telling off-color, crude jokes in the newsroom, in front of female staffers. The three other women and I discussed it during our regular jaunts to a nearby coffee shop. We didn’t know what to do about it; we just knew were growing weary of Hilton’s antics.

The final straw was the day he called one of my colleagues a “breeder,” in a negative tone of voice, in front of the entire newsroom. (According to Wikipedia, that word is often used “with the derisive implication that they have too many offspring.”) She was hurt and offended, as was I, on her behalf. So I went to Peters and simply asked him to speak to Hilton about his inappropriate behavior.

I lost my job shortly after that.

Peters and Hilton had the blessing of the Matthews family, who owned the newspaper. And as much as I respected then-publisher Sam Matthews, my respect all but evaporated as events played out. Because, being an investigative reporter, I did what I was accustomed to doing on the job: I turned on my tape recorder, and after collecting enough evidence to prove my termination was illegal, I hired an attorney. The Matthews family fought back with their all-male team of high-powered San Francisco attorneys.

Not once did they willingly admit that Hilton, a fellow with a penchant for denigrating women, was the problem.

As a woman, I’ve engaged in my own whisper network, just like the female Hollywood stars who warned up-and-coming actors of predators like media mogul Weinstein. My hope for 2018 is that the momentum from the 2017 watershed continues to empower my women everywhere.

That it helps every single man to understand that we have a right to be treated with nothing less than respect and dignity. That our bodies our ours, and you better keep your hands off.

That can happen, if the whisper turns into a shout.

* * * * *


Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

A Wheelchair for John

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One month later, John has a new set of wheels. The motorized wheelchair, a gift from a local woman who knows exactly how essential such a chair is, has given John back his freedom.

I met John four weeks ago on a snowy Sunday, at the intersection of Route 119 and the Exit 1 off-ramp for Interstate 68. Mine was the second car to stop at the traffic light, which had turned red. That position placed me right beside a man in a wheelchair, asking for donations. When I saw he had a disability—one which could cow even the strongest of individuals—my heart went out to him.

John, you see, has no legs, and only one arm. But he has a smile that will melt your heart, and not one ounce of self-pity.

I couldn’t drive away without giving him something. Without any cash, I offered him the only thing in my car worth having: a leftover cinnamon roll from a nearby Cinnabon. We introduced ourselves and John gratefully accepted my meager gift. But as I reached out the window to hand him the boxed dessert, John dropped it. I watched as he tried using his club hand to pick it up, insisting he could do it.

He couldn’t. Torn between heartbreak and not wanting him to feel helpless, I finally opened my car door. Before I could get out, though, the driver in front of me ran toward us. He picked up the box, and then handed John some cash.

During that brief minute or two, I asked John if he received help from our local social services. That’s how I learned he needed a new wheelchair. His electric chair broke, and he was using a manual one that he could barely maneuver on his own.

When the light turned green I drove away, in my warm, dry car. Wearing nice clothes, my belly full. All I could think of was how cold and snowy it was, how light John’s clothing was, and how much he struggled to accomplish such a simple task. A task that, for most of us, would be as mindless as taking our next breath.

I wanted to reach out to other people, to tell them about John’s plight. Before I even changed out of my dress clothes, I posted John’s story on Facebook. “So, since this is supposed to be the season for giving, if you can, please do. After all, it’s Sunday. And it’s really cold outside,” I posted.

Within minutes, several people commented. They wanted to know if he was homeless. Another woman from Clarksburg, about 45 minutes away, was ready to drive here with a wheelchair for John. The only problem was, it was a manual chair, too. By the time we figured that out, I had driven back to the intersection, where I learned that John wasn’t homeless. In fact, he just obtained housing. I took his phone number and promised to help him find a working electric wheelchair.

That happened today, when Tammy Belldina from Rainbow Tire, over in Preston County, finally met John, when she gave him his “new” electric chair. This chair, however, isn’t just another mode of transportation. It’s John’s legs.

Tammy and I, fellow Prestonians, have been working together for weeks now, trying to make this happen. Tammy has a heart as big as Texas. Which is why she insisted on buying a new $200 battery for the chair—so John wouldn’t have to. (Most of us wouldn’t know how expensive such equipment is; Tammy told me these chairs can cost $5,000 or more.)

Along the way, we’ve both gotten to John better. I learned that he knows how to, and can even drive, a vehicle. In the past, he’s held down various jobs. One year ago, though, his other arm was amputated due to blood clots—the same thing that happened to both his legs. I can’t go into details, but John has what seems like a good medical malpractice case, and I hope we can find a good attorney for him.

Meanwhile, Tammy suggested we begin a fundraiser of sorts. That fundraiser begins right now. John supports his family of three (including his daughter) on less money per month than I live on myself. We’re asking you to send him checks or even gift cards that will help him purchase some essentials for his family.

Tammy has a special request. “Let’s make sure that little girl gets some Christmas presents, and John has some warm clothes to wear,” she said.

I’m personally asking you to help John because, for the last month, he’s helped me. He’s given me a reason to focus on someone other than myself and my own problems. Problems that include the death of a spouse and a lost daughter. After a year away from my typewriter, I’m 5,000 words into the trilogy that began with Sister of Silence.

Jesus Christ was right: there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. Helping John has helped me. Plus, as Steve Maraboli says, “a kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” Who knew, that in giving a stranger some leftover food, I would be the one who was healed?

If you can spare a few dollars to help, I will be indebted to you. Please send any donations to: “Daleen Berry, in care of Friends of John,” Citizens Bank, 265 High Street, Morgantown, WV 26508. I will personally see that John gets every penny, and acknowledges your gift.

After all, ‘tis the season.

* * * * *


Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

People Cite Trump as Reports of Hate Crimes Against Muslims and Gays Increase After Election

First came the stealthy knock, carried out under cover of darkness.

Then the sound of footsteps, running away from the house.

And then, the horrible message: “TRUMP is our president now. Get out of our neighborhood now FAGGOTS!!”

I hate that word. I refuse to utter it and hate to even type it. Or share it on social media, which I felt forced to do today.

Corey Hurley found the note, printed in black ink on a piece of plain notebook paper. It was lying at his feet when he opened the door after being awakened at 3 a.m. Thursday morning.
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“I was terrified,” Hurley said during a telephone interview. “I knew things were going to start getting a little crazy . . . but I didn’t know it was going to (happen here).”

When I first read the note, posted on a stranger’s Facebook page, I was carried back to 1992. To the day when I took time off work to visit the principal at Kingwood Elementary School, an hour away from Clarksburg – and begged administrators to stop the harassment and name calling. The same name as appeared on the paper found at Hurley’s feet, paper that any child in America might use to complete a homework assignment. The same word directed at my son, Zach, then age eight.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the last 24 hours have seen a significant increase in reports of hate speech and hate crimes around the country. Most have been directed at Muslims, but some in the gay community are being targeted, too.

Like happened to Hurley – and his partner, Kyle Chester.

And my son, who in didn’t know even what sex was at age eight. Much less sexual orientation. All he knew was that the boys in his class didn’t like him. And my visits to his school, and even later, a letter from my children’s therapist, did little to change that.

“This one that you sent me (that Hurley and Chester received) looks like one of the more aggressive that I’ve seen on the anti-gay front,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said.

That unit monitors hate crime traffic. Beirich said the Harrison County case is one of “many, many instances we’re hearing about across the country, where people are seemingly victims of what appear to be hate crimes and reference Trump.”
kyle-and-corey
This is the first time since 2008, when another President took office. “We haven’t seen an outbreak of what looks like hate incidents since Obama was elected,” Beirich said, “when something similar happened.”

But then, the SPLC saw a “rash of hate incidents (against) black people,” because some people were angry about having a black President.

It’s a different dynamic now, though. “In this case,” Beirich said, “people who look like they support Trump or have sympathies with Trump are attacking minorities.”

Numerous reports have been fielded, she said, of “Muslims having their headscarves pulled off and a ton of incidents in schools . . . there seems to be a rash of these incidents across the nation.”

By the time Zach was in high school, the situation was no better. “I always got threatened in high school. I didn’t tell you because you would have just made it worse.”

One day during a break from theatre practice, Zach was walking outside near the football field. The players were tossing a ball around when “one of them threw the ball at my head, and very narrowly missed me.” Zach threw the football “all the way across the football field so they had to go into the woods to get it.”

Some of the players approached Zach as he walked back into the school. One boy wanted to fight. “So I just stood up to them and let him get into my face and I wouldn’t back down.” The football player turned and walked away.

Hurley, a lifelong Harrison County, West Virginia, resident, has never experienced this kind of violence. “It’s always been more accepting,” he said. “I’ve never had any problems with my sexuality from people before, so I was kind of shocked to see that it happened here in Clarksburg.”

Frightened and shocked, Hurley woke up Chester, who took action. The Lexington, Kentucky, native made sure their home was secure – and then told Hurley they had to call the police.

They did. Chester spoke to Deputy Chief James Chamberlain, with the Clarksburg City Police Department. And patrol cars drove by “a couple of times” afterward, but that’s all. When Chester called later this morning, an administrative worker told him the police couldn’t do anything else. Not until, Chester said, they had “concrete evidence as to where it came from or who did it.”

It’s difficult to understand how police could gather concrete evidence when, 12 hours later, no officer had shown up to even begin the investigation. I tried to reach Chamberlain, but he did not return my call. However, not long after, Hurley and Chester did get a phone call. They were told to go to the Clarksburg police station and file an official report. A “very nice” officer collected the hateful note left at their door.

So now, the investigation into a potential hate crime has begun.

Beirich said it’s hard not to link this kind of hatred with the President-elect. “Trump is referenced in some way. If you’re going to use the word ‘Trump,’ you obviously think this is somehow connected to your support of the President-elect . . . Given Trump’s xenophobic, racist, and so on comments during the campaign,” she said, “it’s not surprising that some people would feel emboldened to do these things.”

While the SPLC doesn’t yet have a tally for how much hate speech, or how many hate crimes have occurred since Trump became President-elect, Beirich said it’s “several dozen.”

They don’t yet know how serious it is, but sadly, incidents like these are happening in America’s schools. At all grade levels. “We’re particularly concerned about stuff happening in schools, involving children,” Beirich said. Muslim students, especially, are being targeted. Being told to “get out of the country.”

The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program has specific information available for teachers, to help them deal with the backlash.

“It’s tragic to see this happening,” Beirich said, while urging all victims to report such hatred to police, as well as the SPLC. And urging police to officially investigate.

“Any of those kids could have kicked my (butt),” Zach said. “I stood up to them – no, I didn’t back down from them. There’s a big difference.”

I asked him to clarify.

Zach did. “Standing up to someone is when you realize that something bad is happening and you actually confront them about it. Not backing down is just standing your ground if someone confronts you.”

I asked him if it worked.

“It definitely helped,” Zach said. “If I had acted in a different manner, maybe more submissive, they would have tried to do more. But if you let them know you’re not going to back down, they have a little more respect for you.”

Respect. That’s what this boils down to. It’s all Hurley and Chester really want, too. So they’re getting their friends involved, to help spread this message:

“We’re human beings, too, just like everybody else,” Chester said, “and we deserve the same rights and respect that anybody else does, in any neighborhood across the country.”

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

Day 32: Stopping to Smell the Roses

I’m nearing the end of my long, literary journey, having driven more than 2,500 miles to date, from West Virginia to Arizona, and complete strangers have turned into new friends, as I stop and smell the roses – both literally and figuratively. The roses, you see, are the people I meet along the way. Each one unique, with his own fragrance or other gift of beauty.

Like Mandy (not her real name), a single mother of three who did what I did when her children were in danger: she took them and ran. But to do this, Mandy had to give up an excellent job. Although she’s since found another one in Pascagoula, Mississippi, her situation isn’t ideal. And her take-home pay isn’t enough to live on. So she and her brood currently live in a shelter. Not ideal circumstances. Not by a long shot. This woman is not only lovely inside and out, she is kind and smart and clearly a good parent. I met her when I stopped for the night in Mississippi. Even though she was at work, she didn’t have a babysitter so her children were with her. Undeterred and determined to provide for them, she went about her duties while they looked after themselves, until the middle child came up and politely interrupted us.

“I need a time out,” he said, after admitting what he’d done to one of his siblings.

I believe you can tell a large measure about a parent by her child, and that blew me away. How many children honestly admit their mistakes – and ask for discipline? I observed Mandy’s kids while they were there and found them to be quiet, well-behaved and very respectful. Clearly their mother has done a remarkable job. In fact, other guests were enjoying their company, too. Immensely.

But I was taken back in time to 1988, when I covered my first homeless story. Then, a woman and her daughter were living in the mother’s car, after also escaping an abusive relationship. It dawned on me then how dangerous it is for homeless children, whose parents may have to leave them inside a vehicle while they go on job interviews, or who are trapped inside a shelter and often targeted by homeless predators. Those dangers are above and beyond the daily psychological and emotional stressors, of not having your own home to go to. Of not having a routine, or a safe place where you can simply be yourself.

That first story taught me something, so since then I’ve given away my leftover (and utterly too large) restaurant portions to the homeless, and tried to help them in other ways. I know that the biggest percentage of homeless people are themselves either runaways, military vets, or mentally ill. Some of these folks also have addiction issues, often self-medicating to try and relieve their pain. This is yet another danger for the children exposed to these problems.

I’ve also been homeless myself, for a couple of brief moments in my life, but never to the point where I had to rely on a public agency for temporary housing. I was fortunate, because friends and family came to my aid. Mandy? Not so much. Like many women who protect their children when abuse comes into play, her family turned its back on her. Thought she was crazy to go to such lengths to keep her little ones safe.

There is a very long waiting list for Section 8 housing, which is all Mandy can afford, so I’d like to ask for anyone reading this who knows someone in the Pasmagoula area to reach out and help me find Mandy and her children a nice, safe home. So they don’t have to continue living in a shelter, which is not conducive to safety or good health – especially for little ones. You can contact me directly, using Facebook or Twitter or my contact info.

I believe people naturally want to help others. They just have to know when a need exists, and what they can do to help. I believe no one wants to let a hard-working mother like Mandy and her three little ones live in a shelter, so let’s help them.

We can do this!

Note: The photos accompanying this blog were taken on the road, at coffee shops or rest stops, or simply (and safely) while in traffic. Next time, I’ll share some of the stories – and more beautiful scenery, captured with my iPhone – during my visit to the Cochiti Reservation and Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you’d like to guess where I’m going next, and why, I’m hosting a contest at my Facebook group page.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

Where the Open Road Leads Me

I haven’t quite gotten the hang of writing from the open road. You would think it would be so easy: just walk into your hotel room, open your laptop, and begin writing, right? Not so much. At least, not for me. I’ve struggled to find a balance between driving, interacting with people I meet up with, or on, my trip, and writing regularly. Hopefully, I’ll get into a regular rhythm soon. Until then, here are a few more nuggets from my journey.

In early September, I drove from West Virginia to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, my only companion an audiobook. The Lineup, edited by Otto Penzler, was the perfect read for a crime writer. Listening to accounts about other crime writers, like Alexander McCall Smith and Michael Connelly, I found tons of inspiration for my own work. Plus, it helped pass the hours spent behind the wheel.

After Myrtle Beach, the open road took me even further south, so I stopped in Savannah, Georgia, for a night. After wandering around in the intense heat and humidity the next day, all day, my energy was sapped and I didn’t make it to Pompano Beach, Florida, like I planned. Instead, I stopped for the night at a Wyndham hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. (Where a roach marched across my nightstand table as I was climbing into bed, while the lights were still on. Talk about setting the scene for a poor night’s sleep.)

The next day, after calling Israel (a fun first!) to conduct an interview for a feature article I’d been assigned, I complained to management, was given a $20 discount, and continued driving south on I-95. Munching on boiled peanuts and Cajun-coated pecans along the way, I went straight to the beach when I arrived in Pompano. It was 360-degrees of brilliant sunshine.

As the waves rolled in and back out again, I thought about some of the folks I’d met on my journey. Like Atlanta, who has worked at an ice cream parlor since she was 13. She’s 21 now, but still loves her job. Already a hard-working employee, one day she will be a successful business owner. Wait and see.

I thought, too, about those people I’d only seen in passing, like the fellow who was taking his children to a sports game over the weekend. We chatted only briefly at a coffee shop, after I commented on his shirt. He let me take a photo, which is shown here. Its message is something every parent can relate to.

Then there was the Florida Highway Patrol officer who blocked traffic with his police cruiser, crossing three of five lanes to toss two huge bags of what looked like clothes or bedding, obviously fallen from a vehicle, over the guardrail. He did that to help protect us from harm. From what could have been a very serious, multiple-vehicle pileup.

He and other emergency workers – police, fire, and rescue – provide a crucial service. In one way or another, they keep the peace. Protect us from anarchy. Even from death. In these turbulent times, we need to remember that the majority of police officers are decent humans, just like us. Who hate the actions of their incompetent and corrupt colleagues – who give the good guys a black eye – even more than we do.

I was reminded of this when I returned to Pompano and the apartment where, last March, I wrote about one such good, even great, police officer. That book, while a love story, also provides a powerful example of the fine work done by such men and women in blue. If all cops were like him, there would be no national news coverage of police shootings like the most recent ones in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina. In fact, if every police agency in America would model their teams after him, that coverage would drop dramatically.

If you’d like to read more about my trip of a lifetime, including my foray into the Florida Keys, where I visited Hemingway House and met many other amazing, gracious people, please tune in next time.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Ms. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Me Before You: Neither the Novel Nor the Movie Disappoint

Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers.

I love watching movie trailers. So when I saw the one for Me Before You several months ago, the first thing I did after leaving the theatre was Google the title, where I discovered the newly-released flick was based on the 2012 fictional novel by British journalist and author Jojo Moyes.

I don’t always have the luxury of first reading a book before seeing the related movie, but I did with Me Before You. How could I not? Moyes’s book has thousands of reviews at Amazon, with an average of 4.6 stars, which means it was either a good story or well written. Or both. Turns out, it’s both. I love Moyes’s writing style and the way she weaves a complex, compassionate tale about the wealthy, albeit depressed Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, and his upbeat, cheery caretaker, Louisa Clark.

Like many women, I also love a good love story.

While taking Megabus to New York City recently, I had nothing but time so I opened the Kindle app on my iPhone and began reading. The bus pulled out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, about 11 p.m. I couldn’t stop turning the electronic pages until my eyes grew so heavy they would barely stay open. It was after 1 a.m.

On my way home from NYC, I began reading again. By the time I finished, I was glad I had thought to pack some tissues in my backpack, because, as my father would say, Me Before You is a real tearjerker.

Last weekend, some friends and I went to see the movie. As we left the theatre, I couldn’t help noticing an older couple behind us. He was wiping his eyes. One of my friends saw it, too, and once outside we wondered if he had lost someone like Will. Or if the couple had a loved one who committed suicide.

That’s because, at its heart, Me Before You is a love story, but it’s one which also deals with the controversial issue of assisted suicide, or euthanasia. Will Traynor doesn’t want to live as he is, trapped in a chair while in almost constant pain. He wants to be the “me” he was before the accident that turned him into a quadriplegic. Before “you,” or Louisa Clark enters his world.

Several excellent articles have been written about the ethical and moral dilemma euthanasia raises, so I’m not going there. I will say that, having faced and overcome suicidal tendencies in the past, I can understand why Will made the decision he did. But as someone who has never been trapped in a wheelchair, I am not in a position to judge anyone who makes the choice he did.

Louisa, or Lou, as her family calls her, is such a bubbly, joyful character that we root for her, in her efforts to change Will’s mind. She is one of those people you’d like as a friend, a woman whose smile never fades. (Well, not for long.) Who is sure to pick you up, when you’re feeling down. Or goad you into finding a reason to laugh over your miserable lot in life. She is literally an adult Pippi Longstocking, with the stockings to prove it. I can’t wait to see how Lou fares in her life after Will, since her life “before (him)” was dull and boring.

If you’re a reader, get the book. You won’t be sorry. (Then take your significant other to see the flick on date night.) In the movie, the story arc of Me Before You is unwavering, and actors Emilia Clarke and Sam Claftin give a spot-on performance. However, it omits two other supporting storylines: gang-rape and the legal questions that arise from assisted suicide. Moyes tackles both topics deftly, in a poignant way that left this reader longing for September, when her sequel arrives.

* * * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Effective June 2, 2016, Ms. Berry’s blog began appearing each Thursday, rather than Monday, as it once did. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

These Knees Are Made for Walkin’

One year ago this month, an anesthesiologist sedated me. Then a surgeon used a power saw to cut through the bones in both legs. When I woke up a few hours later I had two brand-spanking-new knees. They have served me well, too. Five weeks after surgery, I was dancing around my office on them. Recently, they carried me all over Manhattan in New York City, where I walked nine miles in one day. And five the next.

Embracing the day, and life, at The High Line, in Manhattan.

Between those two bookends, I’ve done CrossFit (pushing and bench pressing who knows how many pounds), gone swimming, and taken aqua aerobics and dance classes. I’ve flown to Colorado, driven to Florida, and carried box after box up and down staircases. Last week while shaving my legs, I raised my right one in the shower, placing my foot on a waist-high metal bar. (Now that’s a feat I haven’t done for years!) I also sat on my duff for more hours than I care to recall, where I wrote two books and edited another. That’s 153,000 words, give or take. (And it doesn’t include the 72,000 words I edited for the third book.) Even as I write this, I find these facts amazing given that I had major surgery just two months before I sent the first book to my publisher.
My morning began in NYC began when my son showed me this historic building, Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, believed to have caught fire from a lighted candle.

I am in awe of people who climb mountains, free fall from airplanes, and engage in extreme skiing stunts that would probably kill the likes of me. But for every one of those activities, I have accomplished something equally challenging. And I’ll bet you have, too. It’s easy to forget what we’re capable of—until we look back and see what we did. Activities that, in hindsight, only seem possible with superhuman strength. Divine intervention, if you will.
Chocolate By The Bald Man . . . he appears to be the Willy Wonka of New York.

Like arriving by bus in NYC at 7 a.m. one day, pounding 14 miles of pavement, and returning back to Morgantown, W.Va., at 9 a.m. two days later. I made that same trip 10 years ago and thought it would kill me—and my turnaround time then was nothing like this recent trip. While exhausted this time, I realized I wasn’t in pain like the last time. Then, every part of my body ached, especially my back. The only thing I can attribute the lack of pain to this time is my bionic knees. (Compliments of Dr. David Tuel, surgeon extraordinaire.) And that makes sense, when you think about it. If you have one broken body part (or, in this case, two), it’s going to affect the rest of you.
My favorite sight in all New York City was my son and walking partner for the day. He’s just started a hiking company in the San Francisco Bay Area, so if you’re looking for a great tour, he’s your guy!

That’s why it’s important to take care of the body you have right now, with good nutrition, proper rest and exercise, occasional mental health days, and moderation in all things. It’s also crucial to get any repairs taken care of in a timely manner. Before it’s too late and you’ve ruined something you dearly need—like a leg. Or a liver.
Both coming and going . . . as I entered the Big Apple I glimpsed this majestic sign. Two nights later as I left the city, I found myself right in front of The New Yorker building. Where I drooled at the thought of my literary brethren who write for this prestigious magazine.

Because once that happens, you won’t be walking nine miles anywhere.

* * * *

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Effective June 2, 2016, Ms. Berry’s blog will begin appearing each Thursday, rather than Monday, as it has been. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

“You’re Going to Sell a Million Copies”

That’s some powerful positive thinking going on, and it’s what one reader told me in a message a couple of days ago. Oddly enough, I woke up this morning feeling the same way, that belief having taken root in my brain. I sat up in bed and realized that today is the day Shatter the Silence comes out. Yay! So today is going to be amazing. I’ve never sold a million books before, and I can’t wait to see how that feels!

Maybe it’s the power of the story that has bouyed me with that belief. When writing Sister of Silence, the first book in what is now a series, I thought of it as a book for women. But then men began writing to me, thanking me for writing it. For helping them to “be a better man,” as one man put it.

Shatter the Silence is a love story, so that places it in the romance genre, but since this book is a true love story, it’s also memoir. And guess what? Men are loving it! That’s almost unheard of, when it comes to romance. (So I’m told. Not sure if I believe it.) But this book is about a police officer who worked as a deputy sheriff, when I was a news reporter at my first job. I know we live in a time of great mistrust when it comes to law enforcement, and I understand that, but I think this true story will help restore your faith in the men and women who walk the thin blue line.

Maybe I believe this book will sell a million copies because of something Sarah Rosier Nora posted on my Facebook page this morning. “Readers, get ready to laugh, cry, and fall in love all over again. You’ll root for the real couple in SHATTER THE SILENCE!” Sarah works in a library and reads a lot of books, so she knows a good book when she sees one.

I also believe selling a million copies can happen, though, because in less than one hour—at 10 a.m. (EDT)—almost one-half million people will be talking about this book. That’s when my Thunderclap campaign for my newest baby goes live—thanks to you. All of you, on Facebook and Twitter, who shared and asked your friends to support it. All I had to do was ask for your help, and you gave it. Not only did we meet our minimum goal, we exceeded it! Thank you so very much. YOU are spectacular! And I am so grateful. I truly do love my readers, because you give me something to strive for—that next story. Which I write for you. With much love!

I also love everyone who helped me get this book out the door. And cannot thank you all enough. I hope I remembered you all in the acknowledgements section. If I didn’t, please let me know and I’ll do that in the next book. You’ll be joining a long, long list of folks, too, because I’m thanking everyone by name who took part in the Thunderclap campaign.

It’s a beautiful day here in Morgantown, West Virginia. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the weatherman promises it’s going to be semi-warm (What can I say? This is WV, where it could snow tomorrow.) If you want to read a good love story, I’ve been told this is it. Get your copy today!

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══ SYNOPSIS ══

Shatter the Silence is the romantic and long-awaited sequel by New York Times Best-Selling Author Daleen Berry. The sequel to Sister of Silence, Ms. Berry’s 2011 breakout memoir about surviving abuse, Shatter the Silence is set in 1990s Appalachia.

This romantic memoir weaves accounts of the true crimes Ms. Berry covered while working as a news reporter with details of her divorce, her ex-husband’s ongoing harassment following their divorce, and finally, her love affair with the police detective who became first, a colleague, then a friend, and ultimately, the man who helped save her life.

══ CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR ══

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