New titles ponder pressing problems and life experiences

The far-reaching effects of violence against women 

In the United States, a woman is sexually assaulted every minute and a half. Across the 50 states, that’s 960 sexual assaults every day, Sunday through Saturday, January through December. Just as shocking, every 16 hours, a woman is shot and killed by a former or current intimate partner. 

Those numbers galvanized trauma psychologist Anne DePrince into action. A Distinguished University Professor in DU’s Department of Psychology and an internationally recognized expert in violence against women, she’s the author of the newly released “Every 90 Seconds: Our Common Cause Ending Violence against Women” (Oxford University Press, 2022). In its fast-paced 172 pages, DePrince examines the ramifications of intimate violence—its staggering toll on families and children, on classrooms and workplaces, on the economy, on public health and safety. But she also ponders why, after extensive and heartfelt efforts by advocates and public officials, the problem persists.

“Over fifty years,” she writes, “people have marched and made laws, created services and studied their impact, and fought over the legitimacy of violence against women as a problem. And still a woman is a victim of intimate violence every ninety seconds.” 

As discouraging as this can be, DePrince finds hope in the power of passion and collaboration. She invites readers to become advocates, to help solve the problem, noting that “the causes and consequences of violence against women are interconnected with the great public issues of our time … .” In other words, if readers want to see progress in any number of areas—immigration, perhaps, or education outcomes, gun crimes, economic security, you name it—addressing violence against women is a good place to start. 

A memoir explores the emotional landscapes of a peripatetic life 

Throughout her life, alumna Sorayya Khan (MA ’85), the daughter of a Dutch mother and Pakistani father, has been called on to adapt to different landscapes, cultures and contexts. Born in Vienna, Austria, she spent much of her childhood and adolescence in Pakistan. She moved to the U.S. for college and later met her husband while a student at what is now DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Her two sons were raised in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York, in a post-9/11 world not always hospitable to brown boys with “suspect” heritage. And over the years, she traced her family’s story—and thus her story—through various geographic coordinates, from Amsterdam and Maastricht to Lahore and Islamabad.  

In “We Take Our Cities With Us: A Memoir” (Mad Creek Books, 2022), Khan reflects on the enduring presence of the people and places that have shaped her life. The author of three novels, she is known for delicate prose and an eye for telling detail. This memoir has earned high praise from two of the literary world’s most respected denizens. Author Claire Messud called it “an intimate, beautiful, and lasting book,” while novelist Lily King labeled it “a dazzling exploration of time, place, and self.”  

An alumna’s chapbook shares poems from a pandemic

For the first unsettling months of the coronavirus pandemic, award-winning poet and essayist Kathryn Winograd (PhD ’89) sought solace in nature and found peace in writing. She spent April of 2020 writing poems, many of which were recently published in a chapbook, “Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic” (Finishing Line Press, 2022).

“I wrote the poems … during National Poetry Month during such a terrible time and found such peace in my search for some kind of faith in a shaken world where my only ‘knowns’ were a cabin porch, a spill of morning sun, and a nuthatch at the feeder,” she wrote on her blog.

The collection was a semi-finalist for the Finishing Line Press’ 2020 Open Chapbook Contest, but it represents only the most recent of Winograd’s literary accomplishments. She is the author of seven books, including “Air Into Breath” (Ashland Poetry Press, 2002), winner of the 2003 Colorado Book Award for poetry. 

Winograd is also author of several books on teaching poetry in the classroom. Her time with students and her encounters with the blank page have made her an ardent champion of the random prompt. In a January 2022 article for Split Rock Review, she shared her secret for juicing creativity: “If stuck, I am never too faint-hearted to pull out a magazine or a book from a shelf, riffle through its pages, and then blindly stab a finger at any word, phrase, or sentence—the more prosaic, the better. Writing my poem, ‘Migrations,’ surprise winner of one of the Writer’s Digest writing competitions, I opened up the morning newspaper and, in utter frustration, stuck my finger on the phrase, ‘There is no justification here,’ which led me to my ending for a poem I thought impossible to finish.”

Essay explores the aftermath of sexual assault 

In a provocative book-length essay, “Rancher” (Burrow Press, 2021), Selah Saterstrom, a professor in DU’s creative writing PhD program, mulls the “uncanny territories of life after rape”—territories depicted in Saterstrom’s seamless prose and in original color illustrations by H.C. Dunaway Smith. 

A survivor of a sexual assault, Saterstrom had dispatched her assailant to the farthest recesses of her memory. But one day, scrolling through her Facebook feed, a photo of him standing before his ranch-style house jumped out at her. The house came complete with a swimming pool, a status symbol— “something I have wanted for myself my entire life”— that raised her ire. 

With that online encounter and the fury it triggered, Saterstrom began writing intensely about the act and reality of rape and, just as important, about the process of healing and reflecting, of “being with” the trauma. In thinking about her own experience, she introduces readers to 11-year-old Maria Teresa Goretti, the patron saint of rape victims, who died in 1902 from stab wounds inflicted as she resisted a sexual assault. Within the Catholic Church, she has been a problematic saint, beatified in large part because she forgave her attacker. “You might say that she is the patron saint of the #MeToo movement,” Saterstrom writes.

From Goretti’s story, Saterstrom turns to actor Julie Andrews, who played another virginal and problematic Maria, surnamed Von Trapp, in “The Sound of Music.” In that film, she stars as a nun who can’t conform to her order’s vision and so becomes the subject of an aptly named song, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” Behind Andrews’ performance, Saterstrom notes, lurks a galling truth: According to Andrews’ memoir, starting at age 9, she was forced to share a bed with her stepfather.

She finds stories like these everywhere—and everywhere as well, women navigating the uncanny aftermath of sexual assault.

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