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My Review of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette Mahurin

In Amelia Curzon Reviews, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap on September 16, 2012 at 2:01 am

Extremely Powerful and Impacting…

I had been looking forward to reading this book for some time and was not disappointed when I did. In fact, I was hooked by the time I reached the end of the prologue. After that it was very hard to put down.

Mildred Dunlap lives in a small town in Nevada with her cousin Edra. Since childhood both have felt a fondness for each other which has now blossomed into a full-blown, if secret, relationship. At the time of the opening chapter (late nineteenth century), Oscar Wilde has just been imprisoned for ‘committing acts of gross indecency’ (homosexual activities) and the world has been alerted by telegraph.  The news, inevitably, reaches the small town of Red River Pass where Mildred and Edra live. Forever quick to judge, and mete out punishment and derision, the resident gossipmongers have a field day with this.  Mildred becomes alarmed at the pure hatred and prejudice projected by the tittle-tattles upon their hearing this piece of news. All her life they have ignored her kindness and generosity, and instead have cruelly focused upon her appearance and wealth.  If they were to find out her secret as well, she knew life would be unbearable for both her and Edra. As a result she sets out to mislead the gossips with her own plot, which has surprising consequences.

This carefully and beautifully crafted story is not just about the relationship between two women, it goes far deeper.  It is a story about inherent ignorance and discrimination in general.  It is also a story about tolerance, love, friendship and trust. Mahurin writes her characters in superbly and the reader is inclined to empathise with the more sympathetic characters of Gus, Charlie, Mildred and Edra, and to despise the hateful and hate-filled dogmatists like Josie, whose spite and bullying tactics are enough to make anyone shudder.

Written with total conviction and bucket loads of compassion, this is an extremely powerful and impacting novel which portrays a scenario not so very far removed from the society we live in today, and illustrates just how damaging preconception can be.

I highly recommend this book and am giving it the full 5 star whack

Why Tolerance?

In Guest Blogger, LGBTQPA on September 2, 2012 at 12:01 am

I was very touched and impacted when I first read this post by my latest Guest Blogger, the very eloquent and perceptive Paulette Mahurin. Having published my own book for teens, Mungai and the Goa Constrictor, my greatest hope has been to convey a message of forbearance and acceptance, which is why I chose such a diversity of species across the globe, knowing we are all part of mixed and integrated societies. Paulette speaks of the universal intolerance, persecution and oppression which motivated her to write her book, and the beliefs and preferences of many who feel that if the persuasions and choices of others contradict their own ideas of what is right and acceptable, there is a reason to hate.

I’m delighted to have an opportunity to write an article for Amelia E. Curzon’s Blog. Being that I am a NurseGuest Blogger Paulette Mahurin on Amelia Curzon's Blog - Carte Blanche Practitioner, specializing in women’s health, and have just completed a novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, about a strong female protagonist, a lesbian who is persecuted and bullied all her life. The motivation for writing the story is what I want to talk about here, oppression of lesbians in history, and feminine energy suppression in general.

World renowned author, Riane Isler’s international bestseller, The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future (Harper Collins San Francisco, 1987), has been hailed as one of the most significant works since Darwin’s Origin of Species. In it she elaborates on androcracy, government by male rulers, and the influence this has on gender bias. So rare is women rule, gynecocracy, that it survives mainly in myth.

Isler’s work was not from research in a didactic vacuum; she lived and understood oppression from an early age, when as a child her family fled Nazi Austria to Cuba (she later moved to the United States). It is this aspect that I find most intriguing about her, how did this influence her life and work? How does any experience, especially in our formative years, condition us? The latter question rhetorical, brings me back to my own research while writing my book.

In doing the research, the masculine dominant energy was pervasive, between the lines one reads of a women’s place, the labeling of our friendships toward what was tolerable, what was conservatively acceptable, and what was meant for oppression.

Through the years this changes, the balance shifts, while the feminine is gaining more of a stronghold, but what remains are the labels, which are still dangerous depending on where one lives in the world.

Women friendships in history have always been acceptable, hugging, handholding, and displays of attention, not frowned upon. In the 1800s women who could afford to live together but never married were considered spinsters, still socially acceptable. Where the tide turns is if a partnership were suspected of being, or labeled lesbian, then they were considered to be insane. The treatment was institutionalization, the therapy, rape.

When I started writing my book, based on the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde and the impact his two year prison sentence had on a lesbian couple, living in a small Nevada ranching town, I had to figure out how to show the oppression, the fear, that the lesbian couple lived under. This was really difficult because how do I write about what I haven’t experienced? Or have I? I sat with this, meditated on this, went back to the books on oppression of self-expression, and found my answer, society.

A society that supports a relationship (including the family unit), in a loving way, molds one type of personality. A brutal abusive society, group, takes its toll. This I can relate to and have experienced, my world view—a box that surrounds my soul with the should and shouldn’t do this or that, be this or that—gave me the backstory to create the story’s antagonist, a woman filled with unmitigated hatred toward anything that doesn’t support her ego.

Just this last week, I received a review of my book, from a women, pleasant and decent to communicate with, who gave my book a thumbs up and a thumbs down and went on to explain that the thumbs up:  the best characterization I’ve seen in a book, and I’m big on characterization. Great details and emotional aspects in capturing the feelings and turbulence of that time period with all the different topics mentioned. It was so sad to see how horrible the gossip girls were about the Jewish man in France. And the African-American in the government. Josie is quiet a character. (sic)

She then went on to say: My Rating: I give this a thumbs down because I don’t like and don’t support the Lesbian standards, and prefer to just not have anything to do with those people: whether its books, movies, riots etc. But I give it a thumbs up for being so well written by a woman who is married to a man. For a Straight woman, this was well written. (sic)

I wrote her back thanking her for her honest review and that I was extremely appreciative of us dialoguing, for it is in communicating that issues, large and small, can start to be resolved. After I wrote to her, I sat silently and wondered what causes one to feel/think this way, foreign from my live-and-let-live-as-long-as-you-aren’t-hurting-anyone attitude? I have no answer, not really, and so once again I sat back quietly and contemplated, this time, tolerance, and pray that those whose hearts hold hatred learn what it is.

Bio: Paulette Mahurin is a Nurse Practitioner (NP), specializing in Women’s Health. She has also taught clinic preceptors in the NP programs for UCLA and USC. While at college she won awards for two non-fiction stories she wrote. When not writing or helping rescue dogs, she likes to hang with her husband, Terry (a retired NASA Attorney) and their two dogs, Max & Bella ( rescued from kill shelters).

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