Spiritual Abuse

Continuing our series on crisis resources, here is a collection of materials on spiritual abuse. The descriptions are from the publishers, edited for length. Most of the books below are available at the Potsdam Public Library.

What is Spiritual Abuse?

Spiritual abuse generally involves leaders controlling others through “misuse of scripture, claims to divine authority, pressure to conform, and enforced accountability.” Victims are often isolated, and manipulated into silence. Spiritual abuse can include domestic violence, violence inflicted on children, emotional and psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. Perpetrators use claims of spiritual authority to manipulate victims, i.e., that “God wants” parents to beat their children.

It is horrifying to hear the stories of victims from our own community about church leadership providing instruction to families on the proper techniques for assaulting their own children, and how to shame and manipulate them into secrecy. Psychological abuse is even more rampant and harder to detect with victims left unsure if what’s happening is really abuse.

To any of our readers who have that feeling that “something’s not right,” I hope that you will find some answers in the books and resources below, and that you’ll find yourself on a path to healing.

–Annie

Podcasts and Videos

The Allender Center Podcast: Spiritual Abuse Series

FOCL YouTube Playlist: Diane Langberg

The Spiritual Abuse Podcast

Theology Gals: Spiritual Abuse

Books

ChurchToo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing

When Emily Joy Allison outed her abuser on Twitter, she launched #ChurchToo, a movement to expose the culture of sexual abuse and assault utterly rampant in Christian churches in America. Not a single denomination is unaffected. And the reasons are somewhat different than those you might find in the #MeToo stories coming out of Hollywood or Washington. While patriarchy and misogyny are problems everywhere, they take on a particularly pernicious form in Christian churches where those with power have been insisting, since many decades before #MeToo, that this sexually dysfunctional environment is, in fact, exactly how God wants it to be.

The #MeToo movement has revealed sexual abuse and assault in every sphere of society, including the church. But victims are routinely ignored by fellow Christians who deny their accounts and fail to bring accountability to the perpetrators. All too often, churches have been complicit in protecting abusers, reinforcing patriarchal power dynamics, and creating cultures of secrecy, shame, and silence. Pastor and survivor Ruth Everhart shines a light on the prevalence of sexual abuse and misconduct within faith communities.

She candidly discloses stories of how she and others have experienced assault in church settings, highlighting the damage done to individuals, families, and communities. Everhart offers hope to survivors as she declares that God is present with the violated and stands in solidarity with victims. Scriptural narratives like those of Tamar and Bathsheba carry powerful resonance in today’s context, as do the accounts of Jesus’ interactions with women. God is at work in the midst of this #MeToo moment to call the church to repentance and deliver us from violence against the vulnerable.

Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Such experiences inevitably leave traces on minds, emotions, and even on biology. Sadly, trauma sufferers frequently pass on their stress to their partners and children.

Renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring–specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score offers proven alternatives to drugs and talk therapy–and a way to reclaim lives.

Breaking the Silence contains important, action-oriented information about domestic violence and its pervasiveness in society. Sections include “myths” about domestic violence; a checklist to determine if a relationship is potentially violent; clergy resources for counseling, worship, and congregational outreach; rape; information for youth; and pages that can be customized with local and national contact numbers, e-mail addresses, and websites. Also includes questions for discussion and suggestions for using the book for training or as a youth and adult education tool.

What is the way forward for the church?
Tragically, in recent years, Christians have gotten used to revelations of abuses of many kinds in our most respected churches–from Willow Creek to Harvest, from Southern Baptist pastors to Sovereign Grace churches. Respected author and theologian Scot McKnight and former Willow Creek member Laura Barringer wrote this book to paint a pathway forward for the church.

We need a better way. The sad truth is that churches of all shapes and sizes are susceptible to abuses of power, sexual abuse, and spiritual abuse. Abuses occur most frequently when Christians neglect to create a culture that resists abuse and promotes healing, safety, and spiritual growth.

How do we keep these devastating events from repeating themselves? We need a map to get us from where we are today to where we ought to be as the body of Christ. That map is in a mysterious and beautiful little Hebrew word in Scripture that we translate “good,” the word tov.

In this book, McKnight and Barringer explore the concept of tov–unpacking its richness and how it can help Christians and churches rise up to fulfill their true calling as imitators of Jesus.

This powerful book deals with the issue of how Christians, especially those called to counsel, can help survivors of sexual abuse find healing and hope. From 20 years of experience, the author demonstrates how counselors can walk alongside people deeply wounded by sexual abuse as they face the truth about who they are, who their abuser was, and who God is as the Savior and Redeemer of all life. Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse issues a strong call to the church at large to walk with survivors through the long dark nights of their healing.

According to the American Medical Association, one quarter of American women will be abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. Loving support can make a tremendous difference to survivors as they struggle with the difficult process of healing and regaining trust in themselves and others. Often, however, pastoral caregivers possess the same misconceptions about domestic violence as does the uninformed public.

Al Miles addresses the issues related to inadequate pastoral response to this pervasive problem. He explores the dynamics of abusive relationships and the role that clergy members can take to heal this painful situation.

Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse: Creating Healthy Christian Cultures (in process)

‘Every time he wanted me to do something, he would quote scripture… I couldn’t argue with scripture, it was like arguing with God.’

The term ‘spiritual abuse’ is widely used across the Christian community. But what is it?
Sometimes spiritual abuse involves leaders misusing their position, but ministers can also be the victims. Common factors include control through misuse of scripture, claims to divine authority, pressure to conform, and enforced accountability. Individuals may be isolated, and compelled to secrecy and silence.

Drawing on a combination of extensive research, individual testimonies, and years of hands-on experience, Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys describe clearly the nature of spiritual abuse, and the best ways of countering it. Recovery is possible.

Sex is such an intimate topic historically wrapped in shame and when someone shares they were sexually abused, we may not know how to respond.

With recent #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, we are learning just how many men, women, boys, and girls have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted person, often family members or leaders in the church. Sexual abuse is rampant in modern society and now–sometimes many years later–sexual abuse survivors are sharing their stories.

Anne Marie Miller is a survivor of childhood clergy sexual abuse and has shared her journey toward healing with audiences all over the world. After speaking with thousands of survivors and their loved ones, she saw the need for a fundamental and practical guide for helping supporters of sexual abuse survivors understand the basics of abuse, trauma, healing, and hope.

Jesus and John Wayne is a sweeping, revisionist history of the last seventy-five years of white evangelicalism, revealing how evangelicals have worked to replace the Jesus of the Gospels with an idol of rugged masculinity and Christian nationalism–or in the words of one modern chaplain, with “a spiritual badass.”

As acclaimed scholar Kristin Du Mez explains, the key to understanding this transformation is to recognize the centrality of popular culture in contemporary American evangelicalism.

Challenging the commonly held assumption that the “moral majority” backed Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020 for purely pragmatic reasons, Du Mez reveals that Trump in fact represented the fulfillment, rather than the betrayal, of white evangelicals’ most deeply held values: patriarchy, authoritarian rule, aggressive foreign policy, fear of Islam, ambivalence toward #MeToo, and opposition to Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community. A much-needed reexamination of perhaps the most influential subculture in this country, Jesus and John Wayne shows that, far from adhering to biblical principles, modern white evangelicals have utterly remade their faith, with enduring consequences for all Americans.

Walking through Psalm 23 phrase by phrase, therapist and author K.J. Ramsey explores the landscape of our fear, trauma, and faith. When she stepped through her own wilderness of spiritual abuse and religious trauma, K.J. discovered that courage is not the absence of anxiety but the practice of trusting we will be held and loved no matter what.

How can we cultivate courage when fear overshadows our lives? How do we hear the Voice of Love when hate and harm shout loud? This book offers an honest path to finding that there is still a Good Shepherd who is always following you. Braiding contemplative storytelling, theological reflection, and practical neuroscience, Ramsey reveals a route into connection and joy that begins right where you are.

The Lord is My Courage is for the deconstructing and the dreamers, the afraid and the amazed, for those whose fear has not been fully shepherded but who can’t seem to stop listening for their Good Shepherd’s Voice.

An internationally recognized counselor offers Christian leaders a clinical and theological framework for understanding how power operates, the effects of the abuse of power, and how power can be redeemed and restored to its proper God-given place in human relationships and institutions.

Trauma therapist Teresa B. Pasquale offers healing exercises, true-life examples, and life-giving discussion for anyone suffering from the very real pain of church hurt. Pasquale, a trauma survivor herself, understands the immeasurable value of our wounds once we’ve acknowledged them and recovered in community. That’s why the wounds are “sacred,” and the hope this book offers is a powerful message to anyone suffering from this widespread problem.

This book explores the nature of emotional wounds, trauma, and spiritual hurt that come from negative religious experience. Some of the features are: -Stories from a wide range of persons hurt by negative religious experience -Healing and contemplative practices to help readers explore their own spiritual story and practical ways to move towards personal healing -A journey through the experience of trauma in religious settings and how it is both relatable to other forms of trauma and distinctive-outlining both facets -An exploration of the author’s own personal and professional understanding of hurt, trauma, PTSD, and the power of resiliency and healing.

“Am I the only one who sees this–am I just imagining things? Is something wrong with me . . . or could this be abuse?”

Maybe you don’t know for sure: all you know is something feels off when you think about a certain relationship or interaction with an institution or organization. You feel alone and confused–but calling it “abuse” feels extreme and unsettling, a label for what happens to other people but not you. Yet you can’t shake the feeling: something’s not right.

In his debut book, researcher and advocate Wade Mullen introduces us to the groundbreaking world of impression management–the strategies that individuals and organizations utilize to gain power and cover up their wrongdoings. Mullen reveals a pattern that accompanies many types of abuse, almost as if abusers are somehow reading from the same playbook. If we can learn to decode these evil methods–if we can learn the language of abuse–we can help stop the cycle and make abusers less effective at accomplishing destruction in our lives.

Something’s Not Right will help you to identify and describe tactics that were previously unidentifiable and indescribable, and give you the language you need to move toward freedom and create a safer future for yourself and others.

We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis (in process)

In the throes of the #MeToo movement, with authority and compassion, Mary DeMuth draws on her personal experience and elevates the voices of survivors as she unpacks the history of the church’s response to sexual abuse in order to find a new way forward.

“Timely and necessary…This book is not only a warning. It is an opportunity. An opportunity to live out the gospel we so passionately proclaim. And it starts with listening.”–J.D. Greear, President of the Southern Baptist Convention

The Well-Armored Child: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Sexual Abuse (in process)

Author Joelle Casteix has filled the need for an easy-to-read toolkit for parents when it comes to preventing childhood sexual abuse. When her own child was born, she was deluged with tomes that covered everything from breastfeeding to choosing the right college. But one book was noticeably absent. It’s the book that can help parents take action to prevent their child from becoming another statistic.

The Well-Armored Child gives parents the tools and strategies to understand how predators “groom” children, why many of our trusted institutions cover up abuse, and how to empower children without shame, fear, or inappropriate discussions of sex.

Written by Rachael Denhollander, recipient of Sports Illustrated’s Inspiration of the Year Award and one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People (2018).

“Who is going to tell these little girls that what was done to them matters? That they are seen and valued, that they are not alone and they are not unprotected?”

Rachael Denhollander’s voice was heard around the world when she spoke out to end the most shocking USA gymnastics scandal in history.

The first victim to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who sexually abused hundreds of young athletes, Rachael now reveals her full story for the first time. How did Nassar get away with it for so long? How did Rachael and the other survivors finally stop him and bring him to justice? And how can we protect the vulnerable in our own families, churches, and communities?

What Is a Girl Worth? is the inspiring true story of Rachael’s journey from an idealistic young gymnast to a strong and determined woman who found the courage to raise her voice against evil, even when she thought the world might not listen. In this crucial cultural moment of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, this deeply personal and compelling narrative shines a spotlight on the physical and emotional impact of abuse, why so many survivors are reluctant to speak out, and what it means to be believed.

Why does narcissism seem to thrive in our churches?

We’ve seen the news stories. Maybe we ourselves have been hurt by a narcissistic church leader. But what is narcissism, really? And how does it infiltrate the church?

Chuck DeGroat has been counseling pastors with narcissistic personality disorder, as well as those wounded by narcissistic leaders and systems, for over twenty years.

He knows firsthand the devastation narcissism leaves in its wake and how insidious and painful it is. In When Narcissism Comes to Church, DeGroat takes a close look at narcissism, not only in ministry leaders but also in church systems. He offers compassion and hope for those affected by its destructive power and imparts wise counsel for churches looking to heal from its systemic effects.

DeGroat also offers hope for narcissists themselves–not by any shortcut, but by the long, slow road of genuine recovery through repentance and trust in the gospel of Jesus.

PPL on the Outside: Supporting our Supporters – The ADK Mountain Club’s Laurentian Chapter

Blair led a beginner snowshoe trip at Lampson Falls during February 2021. He has given many a chance to fall in love with winter in the north country by exploring nature in the snow.

Greetings to all you PPL on the Outsiders, new and journeyed. The spring and summer have brought us a busy schedule, with lots of new indoor programs, as well as conflicts and life events that has prevented some newer outdoor events as part of PPL on the Outside, but stay tuned . . .

That said, many of our previous programs have been led by our friend and neighbor, Blair Madore, a math professor at SUNY Potsdam, and the vice chair, education of the Adirondack Mountain Club Laurentian Chapter, though which he is the Red Sandstone Trail Coordinator.

Blair has been a partner and real asset to our program and while he and other members of the ADK Mountain Club’s Laurentian Chapter have been supportive of us, we want to remind our community of the support we can all show for them: below are the summer events that they ensure keep us outside, in the wild, and become at home in nature.

Dr. Blair Madore, during a history and nature hike on the Red Sandstone Trail, often stopped to talk about the many natural wonders we can find in our backyards, encouraging kids to engage with their surroundings.

To paraphrase something Blair always says: while we all get great benefit from being outside on these hikes and journeys together, it’s the people we meet and the conversations we have on them that make them so valuable.

To learn more about the Laurentian Chapter, Adirondack Mountain Club, and to find other events, contacts, and how to become a member, visit https://adklaurentian.org/

ADK Laurentian Summer Outings:

July Weekly Walk, (July 14, 21, 28) Clarkson Munter Trails Thursdays 6:00pm. We will walk the roads for approximately 2 miles, 1 hour round trip. Meet at 6:00pm near the parking lot behind the Clarkson Walker Arena and Hantz Field off Clarkson Ave (CR59 “Back Hannawa Road”). Leaders for each week will vary. Contact Marianne Hebert, chair@adklaurentian.org, 315-265-0756 for information. 

Saturday July 16 – ADK Anniversary Celebration at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park. As US/Canada border considerations still pose problems for some, we’re holding a local celebration north of the St. Lawrence. The organized event will be a social gathering and picnic to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Adirondack Mountain Club and the 50th anniversary of the Laurentian Chapter. There are excellent possibilities of self-organized hiking, paddling, and cycling trips as well as swimming available. All from both sides of the border are welcome. Contact John Barron, (613) 828-2296 or johnbarron@sympatico.ca.

July 24, 2022 50th Anniversary Celebration at Sandstoner Park 2:00-8:00PM.

Outing choices for our celebration:

Greg Smith & Cindy Glover Paddling the Log Driver’s Trail in Potsdam. 2:00PM departure from Sandstoner Park beach. Join us for an easy 3 mile scenic paddling tour of attractive islands in the Raquette river and a view of downtown Potsdam below the dam. smithgn.greg@gmail.com

John & Susan Omohondro: The hike will mix nature observation with some history of the Raquette River. We’ll start walking at 2:00, from the Mill St trailhead (across from the Hannawa Fire Department), We’ll amble north along the river shore for an hour or so, then retrace our steps. Wear sturdy walking shoes and bring some water. adknwoutings@gmail.

Tom Ortmeyer:Upper and Lower Lakes Bicycle Tour.  We’ll start at 1pm from the Grass River Boat Launch on Rte. 68, and bike around the perimeter of the Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area.  This will be a leisurely ride with multiple stops, including the Indian Creek Nature Center.  16 to 18 miles total.  Level 3.  Contact Tom Ortmeyer for details (315-244-3707, tortmeye@gmail.com

Monday, July 25: Huckleberry Lake Hike. 4.4 mile round-trip hike to Huckleberry Lake in Wolf Lake State Forest from the west parking area on Ames Road in Talcville.  This will be a leisurely out and back hike with a lengthy lunch at the lean-to, so you might bring something special to share.  Trails in Wolf Lake State Forest have little elevation gain but sometimes rough or wet footing, suggesting hiking boots and poles. The forest is geologically part of the Laurentian Shield of Canada, so the terrain and plant life are as seen in the paintings of Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven at the National Gallery in Ottawa.  Contact Dick Mooers at  315.854.4186

Sunday, July 31: Joint Laurentian/Black River Chapter Bicycle Outing to Kring Point State Park. We will start near Oak Point on the St. Lawrence, and take an inland route upstream to Kring Point State Park, where we’ll have a leisurely lunch break with perhaps a stop for ice cream when leaving the park.  We’ll ride at a relaxed pace and enjoy the views.  Our return will be along the river, and we expect to have a nice tailwind.  Total distance: 31 miles.  Level 3-4 depending on conditions.  Contact Tom Ortmeyer to sign up and for details (tortmeyer@gmail.com, 315-244-3707)

August Weekly Walk, (Aug. 4, 11, 18, 25) Bayside Cemetery Thursdays 6:00pm. We will walk the roads for approximately 2 miles, 1 hour round trip. Meet at the entrance to Bayside Cemetery (730 CR59 “Back Hannawa Road”). Leaders for each week will vary. Contact Marianne Hebert, chair@adklaurentian.org, 315-265-0756 for information. 

Wednesday August 3 ‐ Evening paddle on Hannawa Pond.  We’ll meet at 5:00pm at the cartop launch at the junction of Lenny Road and Browns Bridge Road, and paddle Hannawa Pond.  We’ll stop for a picnic along the way.  Contact Tom Ortmeyer 315- 244-3707 for details. Life jackets required.  

Sunday Aug. 14 Wellesley Island State Park. This is an ADK Laurentian Loony Loop Challenge hike. The trail passes through a variety of habitats and offers spectacular views of “The Narrows” and Eel Bay along the St. Lawrence River. The climb to the overlook is fairly steep and rocky. State Park day use fees may apply.  3.5 miles RT, 180 ft. elevation gain. Level 2, Fairly easy. Contact Marianne Hebert, chair@adklaurentian.org, 315-265-0756 for information. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022: Hike in the 5-mile conservation easement to the West Branch of the St. Regis River and Moose’s Pond.

We will hike a 4-mile loop trail with stops at the West Branch of the St. Regis River and Moose’s Pond, in the D.E.C. 5-mile conservation easement.  Learn where to hike, paddling opportunities and how a D.E.C. conservation easement works.  We will also see the entrance to the proposed D.E.C. Kildare conservation easement.

Just on the dirt road drive in, I have seen deer, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse and wild turkey.  On the hike, we may see a Barred Owl, beaver or Red-shouldered hawk.

Contact Greg Nye Smith at smithgn.greg@gmail.com

September Weekly Walk (Sept. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29)  Clarkson Munter Trails Thursdays 6:00pm. We will walk the roads for approximately 2 miles, 1 hour round trip. Meet at 6:00pm near the parking lot behind the Clarkson Walker Arena and Hantz Field off Clarkson Ave (CR59 “Back Hannawa Road”). Leaders for each week will vary. Contact Marianne Hebert, chair@adklaurentian.org, 315-265-0756 for information. 

Saturday September 17 – Arkon Loop in Frontenac Provincial Park. Rugged trails in Canadian Shield country. 11km, Level 3-4. A Loony Loops Challenge destination. Contact John Barron, (613) 828-2296 or johnbarron@sympatico.ca.

Saturday, Sept. 24. Lost Pond Loop (Cranberry Lake). This is an ADK Laurentian Loony Loop Challenge hike. A lovely trail through an open pine forest to a boreal pond.  2 miles RT, no significant elevation gain. Level 1. Easy. Contact Marianne Hebert, chair@adklaurentian.org, 315-265-0756 for information. 

Potsdam Summerfest Theatre Series at PPL

Theatre continues to make a home of PPL’s Main Reading Room during this year’s Potsdam Summer Festival, themed Small Town, Bright Lights.

While Market Street, and the surrounding downtown area will be a flurry of activity, from two stages of live music on Market Street as well as the music at the gazebo in Ives Park, a cornhole tournament, a beer, wine, and cider tent, laser tag and family fun, to food trucks and local vendors, fireworks and more, PPL will be hosting three days of theatre and readings, beginning Thursday July 14 and ending Saturday July 16, with each production created and curated by local artists.

Additionally, PPL’s Family Literacy Specialist, the Marvelous Maria Morrison, will be over at Fall Island, Friday July 15, doing storytimes.

Below you can find the full schedule of PPL events during Summerfest. We hope to see you out enjoying what PPL and Potsdam, as a whole, has to offer! Checkout the hyperlink above to see the full Summerfest schedule, or visit: https://www.potsdamchamber.com/summerfest2022/

Thursday, July 14:

5:30PM: Two 10-minute plays with musical interludes by guitarist Tom Baker.

Play One: The Book Stealer  by Betsy Kepes – starring Maria Morrison, Art Johnson, Ester Katz, Eros Samnarine. An old time minister tries  to rid the library of ‘immoral’ books. Could the library become  ‘one flew over the cuckoo’s nest?

Play Two: Allowed by Kim Bouchard  starring Morgan Hastings and Karen Wells. Edith, the Librarian,  frowns upon William reading out loud in the Library. But, William can only read out loud. O, Pioneer! Will it be allowed?

7PM: Spirit Whispers on the Grasse, by local playwrights Mary Egan, Art Johnson and Elaine Kuracina. (50 minute Monologues)

Starring Carole Berard, Jennifer Berbrich,  John Berbrich,  Jeanne Blake, Derrick Conway, Art Johnson, Esther Katz, Mia Kostka-Hickey,  Elaine Kuracina, Aubrey Slaterpryce, Steven Sauter, David Weissbard, Karen Wells .

The true stories of the people who lived at the Canton County home  1880-1950.

Friday, July 15:

10AM: PPL Storytime with Mrs. Morrison at Fall Island.

11AM: PPL Storytime with Mrs. Morrison at Fall Island.

NOON: PPL Storytime with Mrs. Morrison at Fall Island.

1PM: PPL Storytime with Mrs. Morrison at Fall Island.

1PM: Spirit Whispers on the Grasse.

3PM: Two 10-minute plays with musical interludes by guitarist Tom Baker.

5:30PM: Celebrating the Cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy (30 minute reading).

Memorable lines from Dante’s Comedy (The Inferno) – year of first edition, 1472 AD, using the new English translation by Potsdam resident and retired Professor of Italian Literature Walter Nobile. The audience will hear voices  from 700 years ago!! Has anything changed? Accompanied by projections of art from the Divine Comedy. 

Saturday, July 16:

1PM: Spirit Whispers on the Grasse.

3PM: Two 10-minute plays with musical interludes by guitarist Tom Baker.

5:30PM: Celebrating the Cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy. 

Abortion

To begin our series highlighting library resources addressing topics of crisis, we present a collection of books and podcasts on the topic of abortion. The descriptive text below is all from the publishers, edited for length. All of these titles are available through the North Country Library System, and most of these are on the shelf at the Potsdam Public Library.

Medical and Counseling Resources

Planned Parenthood Learning Resource Page

All-Options Hotline: All-Options has a free confidential hotline to discuss decisions about a pregnancy.

Abortions Welcome: Abortions Welcome has written and interactive resources help with decisions about pregnancy, including a compassionate clergy counseling line.

Reachout of St. Lawrence County: Reachout is a free crisis hotline that can help connect you with other community resources.

Non-fiction

As women’s reproductive rights are increasingly under attack, a minister and ethicist weighs in on the abortion debate, offering a stirring argument that “the best arbiter of a woman’s reproductive destiny is herself” (Cecile Richards, former President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America). Trust Women skillfully interweaves political analysis, sociology, ancient and modern philosophy, Christian tradition, and medical history, and grounds its analysis in the material reality of women’s lives and their decisions about sexuality, abortion, and child-bearing.

Our bodies, ourselves

Hailed by The New York Times as a “feminist classic,” and “America’s bestselling book on women’s health,” the comprehensive guide to all aspects of women’s health and sexuality, including menopause, birth control, childbirth, sexual health, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental health and general well-being.

The girls who went away : the hidden history of women who surrendered children for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade

The astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the decades before Roe v. Wade.

In this deeply moving and myth-shattering work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the hidden social history of adoption before Roe v. Wade – and its lasting legacy.

Few Supreme Court decisions have stirred up as much controversy, vitriolic debate, and even violence as Roe v. Wade in 1973. Four decades later, it remains a touchstone for the culture wars in the United States and a pivot upon which much of our politics turns.

This book details the case’s historical background; highlights Roe v. Wade’s core issues, essential personalities, and key precedents; tracks the case’s path through the courts; clarifies the jurisprudence behind the Court’s ruling in Roe; assesses the impact of the presidential elections of George W. Bush and Barack Obama along with the confirmations of Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Sonia Sotomayor; and gauges the case’s impact on American society and subsequent challenges to it in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), and Gonzales v. Carhart (2007).

Despite her famous pseudonym, no one knows the truth about ‘Jane Roe,’ Norma McCorvey (1947-2017), whose unwanted pregnancy in 1970 opened a great fracture in American life. Journalist Joshua Prager spent years with Norma, discovered her personal papers, a previously unseen trove, and witnessed her final moments.

Bad feminist : essays

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched cultural observers of her generation

In these funny and insightful essays, Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Cosmic constitutional theory : why Americans are losing their inalienable right to self-governance

American constitutional law has undergone a transformation. Issues once left to the people have increasingly become the province of the courts. Subjects as diverse as abortion rights and firearms regulations, health care reform and counterterrorism efforts, not to mention a millennial presidential election, are more and more the domain of judges. Wilkinson argues they will slowly erode the role of representative institutions in America and leave our children bereft of democratic liberty.

The Choices we made : 25 women and men speak out about abortion

Every day in America, abortion providers and the women who need them are in danger. First published ten years ago, this collection of 25 powerful stories from contributors both famous and ordinary, privileged and poor, provides often harrowing insights into what happens when women are denied the right to choose. Testimonials from teenagers, college students, overloaded young mothers, and even a retired male Marine put a human face on one of this country’s most controversial issues and offer passionate arguments for access to legal and safe abortions.

Life’s work : from the trenches, a moral argument for choice

In this “vivid and companionable memoir of a remarkable life” (The New Yorker), an outspoken, Christian reproductive justice advocate and abortion provider reveals his personal and professional journeys in an effort to seize the moral high ground on the question of choice and reproductive justice. In Life’s Work, Dr. Willie Parker tells a deeply personal and thought-provoking narrative that illuminates the complex societal, political, religious, and personal realities of abortion in the United States from the unique perspective of someone who performs them and defends the right to do so every day.

My life on the road

Gloria Steinem–writer, activist, organizer, and inspiring leader–now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of her life as a traveler, a listener, and a catalyst for change.

When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. Taking to the road–by which I mean letting the road take you–changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories–in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.

Fiction

In this striking, enormously affecting novel, Joyce Carol Oates tells the story of two very different and yet intimately linked American families. Luther Dunphy is an ardent Evangelical who envisions himself as acting out God’s will when he assassinates an abortion provider in his small Ohio town while Augustus Voorhees, the idealistic but self-regarding doctor who is killed, leaves behind a wife and children scarred and embittered by grief.

In her moving, insightful portrait, Joyce Carol Oates fully inhabits the perspectives of two interwoven families whose destinies are defined by their warring convictions and squarely-but with great empathy-confronts an intractable, abiding rift in American society.

The handmaid’s tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.

A spark of light : a novel

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center–a women’s reproductive health services clinic–its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

The mothers : a novel

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance–and the subsequent cover-up–will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

Red clocks : a novel

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo.

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

Red Clocks is at once a riveting drama, whose mysteries unfold with magnetic energy, and a shattering novel of ideas. In the vein of Margaret Atwood and Eileen Myles, Leni Zumas fearlessly explores the contours of female experience, evoking The Handmaid’s Tale for a new millennium. This is a story of resilience, transformation, and hope in tumultuous — even frightening — times.

Poor your soul

This vivid memoir tells of an unexpected pregnancy, ultimately welcomed, then threatened by birth defects that preclude life outside the womb. Far more than her personal story of abortion, Ptacin’s brutally honest account incorporates her own mother’s tragic loss of a child. 

When she woke

Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan’s provocative new novel, When She Woke, tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed–their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes–and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder.

In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.

Help Yourself

I hope that when you think about the library, you think about having fun; maybe nostalgic childhood memories of reading with a family member, discovering a great series to keep you entertained for a whole summer, or attending an inspiring workshop that sparks a new hobby. Maybe the library has been a place to escape to, a bright spot in an otherwise dark time, somewhere to be when you don’t know what to do with yourself.

A lot of what we do centers around entertainment, and recreational growth like learning crafts or outdoor skills, but what about when you’re experiencing a serious crisis that 350+ Crochet Tips will not mend? The Grumpy Gardener cannot dig you out of this one. What if you have nobody to confide in and have to help yourself? In this series I want to highlight some of the ways that the library can support you in times of crisis.

The library is a safe space, free of judgment. We welcome everyone, and celebrate diversity of every kind. Everyone who works at the library is here because we truly enjoy helping people. We’re also good at figuring things out, whether it’s how to use your ipad, how to sign up for healthcare, or where to find the forms to DIY your divorce.

Your privacy is protected at the library. Your parents, your spouse, your neighbor, your teachers, even the police, cannot access your library records without a court order. We actually can’t even tell you your own borrowing history because we do not keep that information, except for what’s currently checked out to you.

When you check out a book, a staff member will see what the book is, but we promise we don’t judge. Remember, WE bought all those books! We added them to the collection because we thought they should be here and that they should be checked out. Do you feel a little embarrassed buying tampons at the grocery store? I promise, the cashier doesn’t even think about it. Are you a grown woman reading YA fiction and comic books? Well, so are we. And as for the serious topics, our staff members have collectively been through a wide variety of hard times and have found some of the best help in books. We want that for you, too. Despite that, if you need an extra measure of anonymity, place your books on hold and then email info@potsdamlibrary.org and we will work out a solution that suits your needs.

Over the course of several posts, we’re going to highlight topics such as addiction, homelessness, poverty, discrimination, incarceration, child abuse, domestic abuse/violence, spiritual abuse, grief, depression and mental illness, suicide, medical issues, and legal issues. We’ll recommend a few books on those topics, and where applicable, we will link you to articles, podcasts, community services, etc.

In closing, here is a list of call numbers for “difficult topics” in our non-fiction section. Adult non-fiction is located upstairs.

Abortion ~ 363.46
Alzheimer’s ~ 616.831
Cancer ~ 616.994
HIV / AIDS ~ 616.9792
Infertility – 616.692 or 618.39
Miscarriage ~ 618.392
Pregnancy ~ 618.2
Puberty ~ 613.043 or 612.66
Sexual Health ~ 613 or 306.7
Bipolar Disorder ~ 616.895
Bullying ~ 303.69
Child Abuse ~ 362.76
Depression ~ 616.8527
Domestic Violence ~ 362.82
Loss of a Child ~ 155.9
Loss of a Parent ~ 306.874 or 155.9
Mental Illness ~ 616.89
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ~ 616.8521
Sexual Abuse ~ 362.7
Substance Abuse ~ 362.29 or 616.86
Suicide ~ 362.28
Adoption ~ 362.734
Bankruptcy ~ 346.7307
Child Custody ~ 343.7301
Divorce ~ 306.89 or 346.7
Estate Planning and Living Will ~ 346.7305
Foreclosure ~ 346.73
Hospice Care ~ 362.1
Personal Finance ~ 332

Finding Financial Wellness at PPL

Financial Wellness is something that everyone can benefit from, whether it is finding out regardless of income, saving is still possible, learning how to build a credit score, or how to become a homeowner. That’s why, starting this Thursday, PPL will begin hosting a series of discussions led by our newest partner, Key Bank’s Personal Banker Alene Dishman.

At 3:30PM, Thursday, May 12, in the PPL mezzanine classroom, Ms. Dishman and Key Bank Branch Manager Richard Gum will facilitate Introduction to Financial Wellness, and hour-long, free discussion group that will address the question, what is financial wellness, and outline the importance and impact it has on individuals and all aspects and members of their lives.

Registration is free and can be done at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/introduction-to-financial-wellness-with-alene-dishman-tickets-333037172147

This discussion will be focused on defining financial wellness for the everyday individual no matter where they find themselves personally, professionally or financially, as well as sharing and developing some best practices and methods of thinking. For this discussion Alene will come prepared with information on Key Bank’s checking, savings and credit products as these are typically the foundational products to developing financial wellbeing.

Since starting at the Potsdam branch of Key Bank, located at 17 Elm Street, Alene said she has been driven to get the word out about Key Bank’s mission to help communities develop Financial Wellbeing and to teach the practices and skills that can make this possible for every individual. 

“The most common objective I face from clients on a daily basis is ‘I don’t make enough money to save,’” Alene said. “This simply is not the case. I want to help open the door to the possibility of financial stability for all members of our community but also to the understanding that financial wellness is based on consistent decisions rather than flow or amount of income.”

Thursday’s discussion group is going to be a platform to continue bringing community members together to discuss other aspects of financial wellbeing. Alene said the range of potential future discussion groups is wide, but that she wants to allow it to be created by the needs of community members. She is currently developing future talks on:

  • Credit and How to Build It, 
  • Banking Products (Checking, Savings, CD’s, Lines of Credit, Credit Cards, Personal Loans, Mortgages, HELOCS, Auto Loans, etc.) their uses, the environment currently surrounding them, and how to know the right product for you, 
  • Fraud Prevention, and
  • Steps to Becoming a Homeowner.

“I want to help simplify it and make it understandable, less intimidating and more manageable for the everyday person, no matter what their financial situation is,” she said. “I’ve always had a deep passion for inspiring and empowering individuals to do and be more, whatever that means for them.

“My experience with clients has taught that I am far from the only adult in our geographical area that was unprepared for the unforgiving nature of the long term commitments we can be lured into entering adulthood,” she added. “I have this knowledge now of the financial industry and if it can help someone I just want to be proactive in sharing it.”

Baltimore Reading to Lead Talk About Campus Racism

Building on the fantastic April 22 community reading of Polar Bears, Black Boys, and Prairie Fringed Orchids, by Vincent Terrell Durham, and the rich conversation that followed, PPL is excited to continue our play reading series, Friday, with Baltimore, by Kirsten Greenidge

Come join us at 6PM, Friday, May 6, in our Main Reading Room, with our community partner, the Associated Colleges of St. Lawrence Valley, as we hold the third reading in our play-reading and discussion series Breaking Barriers: Plays at the Library.

Tickets are free and available on Eventbrite, at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/baltimore-by-kirsten-greenidge-a-staged-reading-tickets-328211558607 and on our Potsdam Public Library Facebook Page. Register today, share with your friends and come out to support arts and conversation in your community!

In selecting Baltimore, Associated Colleges of St. Lawrence Valley Executive Director Peter J. Anderson said, “Greenidge’s play addresses a difficult topic that gets to the heart of the most important thing we need to get right on our campuses.”

“But our campuses don’t have hard borders here in Potsdam, and our students are part of our larger community,” he said. “We have to learn to talk with each other about racism. Theater has always been one of the ways society can explore difficult topics and can be a powerful way for us all to be provoked into new ways of thinking about our power and collective responsibilities.

For the Associated Colleges, as we move into a new strategic plan focused on community building, economic development and diversity, we value these kinds of conversations as fundamental to getting anything done.”

Baltimore focuses on the subject of racism on campus and  when a racially-charged incident divides her first-year students, reluctant resident advisor Shelby finds herself in the middle of a conversation she does not want to have. As pressure to address the controversy mounts from residents, the new dean, and even her best friend, Shelby must decide if she will enter the fray or watch her community come apart at the seams. Sharp, funny, and searing, Baltimore is a timely drama about racism on college campuses.

Breaking Barriers is a four-part series looking at issues that are controversial and central to our community through the lens of theatre arts. To learn more about the project, its creation and its mission, check out our blog, here: https://potsdamlibrary.org/new-ppl-play-series-breaks-barriers/

Rivka Eckert, Breaking Barriers co-creator and SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance Assistant Professor, said we had originally looked to partner with SUNY Potsdam’s Center for Diversity, and were encouraged to expand the frame and collaborative opportunity for all the colleges represented by the Associated Colleges of the St Lawrence Valley.

“Because they are already working to bring together scholars, students, staff and community members, working with them in this capacity offers an enriching opportunity to use the arts to share and reflect on common experiences of our colleges,” she said.

In choosing Baltimore, Eckert developed a survey that went out to students, faculty, and staff at Clarkson, SUNY Potsdam, Saint Lawrence University, and SUNY Canton. The survey asked what topics they would like to bring to the community for conversation, and about stereotypes of the college experience.

“Reading through the results illuminated a wide and diverse experience, but one of the throughlines was around a desire to move conversations around justice and racial equity towards action,” Eckert said. “Kristen Greenidge’s play addresses the tension of a college campus in conflict with an earnest desire to move forward. As Peter mentioned, this play reading series offers a unique opportunity to reflect on our collective responsibility towards equity.”

Actors will read the script in the style of a staged or choral reading, reading from music stands with spoken stage directions. Following the readings, there will be a conversation between Breaking Barriers creators, participants, and community organization liaisons meant to engage in the themes, concerns, and impact of the play.

The play’s director Angela Sweigart-Gallagher, a St. Lawrence University Associate Professor of Performance & Communication Arts, said Baltimore speaks directly to one of the major issues facing universities communities, which is how to encourage students to communicate across cultural and racial differences. 

“So, often we see this issue as one that only affects our students of color but it affects the entire community,” Sweigart-Gallagher said. “We need to help our students understand how harm does not hinge on intent and to accept that sometimes how we see ourselves and our actions may not be how others see them.” 

Sweigart-Gallagher said she was “thrilled to be asked” to participate in Breaking Barriers as St. Lawrence University is always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other artists in the community and to give their students opportunities to work on different kinds of projects. 

“I loved the concept of community partnerships. I am always stressing with my students how theatre (at its best) represents and speaks to the issues of the day. Even theatre that might be considered escapist reflects something back about the need for escapism,” she said. “So, this kind of collaboration mirrors my belief that theatre can be a conduit for conversations, a way to think deeply about issues that matter to us, and to be in community with others who also care about those issues.”

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and administered by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

Actor/Director Bios:

Director Angela Sweigart-Gallagher is an Associate Professor of Performance and Communication Arts at St. Lawrence University. Her research interests and performance projects focus on the intersection of politics and performance. Her scholarly writing and performance reviews have appeared in the Journal of American Drama and Theatre, New England Theatre Journal, parTake, Performance Matters, Performance Research, Theatre Symposium, Theory in Action, and Youth Theatre Journal. Dr. Sweigart-Gallagher earned her PhD in Theatre Research from the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

Angela Sweigart-Gallagher

Kaleb Davis is a senior Performance and Communication Arts major and film studies minor. He is a former student athlete as a member of the football team and he is very excited to be apart of this production. He has a passion for the arts and storytelling. He is the co-director of the How Did We Get Here?, a documentary about gentrification in several cities on the east coast.

Kaleb Davis

JD Larabie is a Junior and currently working on an English and PCA double major with a focus on Theatre and Performance and creative writing at St. Lawrence Unviersity. He has performed in The Bakkhai (Fall ’19) as a member of the chorus and in She Kills Monsters (Fall ’21) as Chuck. He also performed in University Theatre’s Zoom Production of Sweat (Fall ’20) as Jason.  

JD Larabie

Emily Mose is a senior studying Performance and Communication Arts with a focus on Theatre and Performance at St. Lawrence University. Her previous productions include being the stage manager for In The Next Room, the servant in The Bakkhai, in the company of Me Too and SLU, assistant stage manager for Sweat, and Agnes in She Kills Monsters.  

Aja Samuel is a sophomore at St. Lawrence University and is a PCA major and Spanish minor. Her most recent roles were in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and She Kills Monsters at St. Lawerence University.  

Aja Samuel

Penda Sarr is a sophomore at St Lawrence University majoring in Anthropology and minoring in PCA.  She recently appeared in St. Lawrence’s production of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind 

Penda Sarr

Carmiña Goya is a first year student at St. Lawrence University from Argentina who plans to major in Performance and Communication Arts with a focus on Theatre and Performance and a minor in Studio Art. 

Carmiña Goya

Aysha Benjamin attends The State University Of New York at Potsdam and studies in theatre. Her most recent performance was SUNY Potsdam’s production of Our Town as Mrs. Gibbs. Aysha was also cast in SUNY Potsdam’s production of Ready. Steady. Yeti. Go. as Carly. At Brooklyn Children’s Theater, Aysha appeared as Rafiki in the Lion King Jr, Winfred in Mary Poppins, Witch in Into The Woods Jr., and Fiona in Shrek Jr. This program also allowed her to perform with Broadway star Jelani Aladdin. Aysha has also been in five other Broadway Junior shows in which she got to perform on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre. Aysha is a recipient of the Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez/Katherine L. Lopez scholarship for excellence in musical theatre.

Aysha Benjamin

Katelin Guerin is also a SLU students reading in the play. A bio and photo were not immediately available.

Theatre, Community, & Conversation begins Friday at PPL!

Communication is at the heart of understanding, and beginning Friday, April 8, Potsdam Public Library will be host to the first of a four-part series looking at issues that are controversial and central to the community through the lens of theatre and a community talk-back.

Breaking Barriers: Plays at the Library begins the community conversation with Paula Vogel’s play How I Learned to Drive, 6 p.m. Friday in the library’s main reading room.

Tickets are free and available on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-i-learned-to-drive-by-paula-vogel-a-staged-reading-tickets-295441492457 and on the PPL Facebook page under events.

The play was selected with the help of community partner, St. Lawrence Valley Renewal House, an organization that, according to their mission statement, “respond(s) immediately to the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in St. Lawrence County through services which empower victims and increase community awareness.”

For How I Learned to Drive, actors will read scripts in the style of a staged or choral reading, reading from music stands with spoken stage directions. Following the readings, there will be a conversation between Breaking Barriers creators, participants, and community organization liaisons meant to engage in the themes, concerns, and impact of the play.

Renewal House Executive Director Ilene Burke, in an email wrote, “Being approached by the creators of the play series was very exciting for us, because it shows a readiness to have a conversation about sexual assault and an opportunity, through a different platform, to bring awareness to our community.  Oftentimes, our community has only a vague idea of the violence that happens around us.”

The project was created by SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance Assistant Professor Rivka Eckert and PPL Adult Program Coordinator William Eckert. 

How I Learned to Drive tells the story of Li’l Bit, now a woman of around thirty-five years, coming to terms with the abusive and emotionally complex relationship that she had with her Uncle Peck. The play works in a non-linear way, using flashbacks, monologues, and a heightened sense of the surreal to show how Li’l Bit relates to her memory and trauma.

“We are hopeful that this play will assist in having an open conversation surrounding sexual assault, while strengthening our community’s knowledge and response in supporting victims/survivors,” Burke wrote.

Rivka Eckert said Renewal House’s reputation as a stable and reliable service provider for families in the North Country precedes them.

“I knew that the complexity of the work they do serving survivors of domestic assault and sexual violence and the important roles they fill within the community as a safe and healing space for survivors would make them strong community partners,” she said. “My hope is that this project will introduce more people to the variety of services they offer, destigmatize some of the stereotypes around asking for help, and break down some of the barriers around the stigma and shame that can be associated with being a survivor.”

She said Vogel’s Pulitzer-prize winning play was chosen because of the nuanced and poetic way the play moves through the trauma and impact of sexual abuse manifest in the characters’ lives. 

“The story is not what you expect and offers haunting portrayals of how abuse changes lives, which gets at the goals of our project,” Eckert said. “There is just so much to say and feel by the end of the play. Perfect for starting a conversation!”

The play will be directed by Jennifer Thomas. Thomas is an associate professor of performance at St. Lawrence University. Her recent productions include: She Kills Monsters, #metoo & SLU, and Spring Awakening. “(I’m) grateful and excited to present work beyond the walls of the theatre and the university setting,” she said. 

Jennifer Thomas

Aja Samuel, stage directions, is a sophomore at St. Lawrence University. She is a Performance and Communication Arts major and a Spanish minor. Her most recent roles include Tilly in University theatre’s production of She Kills Monsters (fall ‘21) and Ensemble in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (spring ‘22). 

Aja Samuel

Emily Brisson will be reading the part of L’il Bit. Brisson is a current senior at St. Lawrence University studying Pre-Law with an English and Government major and a minor in film. Throughout her time at St. Lawrence she has participated in Spring Awakening, #MeToo and SLU, and She Kills Monsters and is excited to get one final script in before graduation. 

Emily Brisson

Danny Thomas will be reading the part of Uncle Peck. Thomas is a father and husband in Canton, New York. He works in the biotech industry as a Customer Success Manager. He has worked in theatre primarily as a sound designer and foley artist, but does enjoy the occasional opportunity to be on stage, under the lights.

Danny Thomas

Patsy Buckley will be reading the part of the Greek Chorus. Buckley is a senior at St. Lawrence. She is majoring in performance with a minor in education. She is grateful for this opportunity. Next year she is looking forward to moving out west and finding shows to audition for.

Patsy Buckley

In addition to Renewal House, Breaking Barriers creators are partnering with Adirondack Diversity Initiative, John Brown Lives!, and Associated Colleges of the St Lawrence Valley, which comprises SUNYs Canton and Potsdam, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence University. Based on partner feedback, an artistic team of local directors, actors, professors, and theatre-makers selected plays that speak to the concerns of each group. In working across university and community lines, we are better able to collaborate and exchange ideas towards a shared vision of strengthening civic participation through the arts. 

Future plays will be held on the following dates:

Friday, April 22, 6 p.m.: Polar Bears, Black Boys, and Prairie Fringed Orchids, by Vincent Terrell Durham with community partner Adirondack Diversity Initiative

Friday, May 5, 6 p.m.: Baltimore, by Kirsten Greenidge with community partner Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley

Friday, June 10, 6 p.m.: Curios and Crinolines, by Elaine Kuracina with community partner John Brown Lives!

To learn more about Breaking Barriers and its creation and purpose, visit https://potsdamlibrary.org/new-ppl-play-series-breaks-barriers/

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and administered by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

More Than a Workshop, Aubrey Slaterpryce’s Village Writers Guild Nurtures Art

Hello, hello People of PPL,

It is with great pleasure that we get to introduce our newest PPL staff member, Aubrey Slaterpryce. Aubrey has all the fervor one could want in the library and brings a remarkable talent and enthusiasm for writing and adding to the programming we have here. 

Just last week we introduced our Village Writers Guild at the Potsdam Public Library, which is created and facilitated by Aubrey and here we thought it important to give you a bit more information about the Guild and the person who is really making it all possible. 

Aubrey Slaterpryce

Aubrey graduated from SUNY Potsdam in Fall 2021 with a BFA in Creative Writing, and during that time at SUNY Potsdam, they participated in, then led, SUNY Potsdam’s Writers’ Cafe for three years 

“Writers’ Cafe was a writing club based at SUNY Potsdam,” Aubrey said. “I joined as a freshman at the beginning of my spring semester. I met some phenomenal people through that group. It helped push me to continue writing, and showed me that writing was something people could actually commit to and sustain throughout their lives.”

It also showed Aubrey the importance of having a writing community, a place to see one’s writing through the eyes of the other.

“I became president of the club during my junior year, but with Covid-19, attendance to meetings was down,” Aubrey said. “Very few people came, and the school did little to help enable the success of it. They were busy with plenty of other things, so I understand. Whereas the Potsdam Public Library, who has embraced the idea fully, has given me more support than I ever expected.”

Aubrey was inspired to start the Village Writers Guild because humans (and artists) exist in relation to one another, in the context of community. 

“It is so important and beneficial to share and voice work, and hear others’ work, while we are still writing it,” Aubrey said. “It helps make us view our own work with an outsider’s lens, to consider how the audience will react.”

Aubrey started writing as a child and said the endless stories that filled their head, resulted in them continuing to exercise their imagination well up until high school. 

“For me, writing is a way to process anything and everything. If I put it down on the paper then it frees up room in my head. I owe a lot of my own self-found peace to writing. I am possessed by words, and find myself writing about the intersection of humans, nature, and imagination a lot. I am inspired by mythology and storytelling, by language and the philosophy of it, and by the various ways to construct a story,” Aubrey said. “My favorite author is N. K. Jemisin with her Broken Earth series. Other authors I love include Thomas Pynchon and his The Crying of Lot 49, and Tara Westover’s Educated. A goal of mine this year is to read more than seventy books; I’ve already read sixteen since January 1st.”

A workshop group encourages people to write more because they have the opportunity and the encouragement to share it with others, Aubrey said, recognizing that sharing is difficult, due to the fear of negative feedback. But Aubrey said that The Village Writers Guild makes useful and supportive feedback one of its top priorities.

“We will help the writer get from where they are with a piece of work to where they want to be with it,” Aubrey said. “To do this, we employ our other top priority; getting writers to continue writing, despite everything else. I believe quantity generates quality, creation enables design. Prolificacy begets precision.”

The first meeting of the Village Writers Guild will be held on Thursday, March 3rd, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, and each Sunday and Thursday after that. The Guild will be broken up into two groups, Group A will meet on Sundays in the library’s main reading room, and Group B will meet Thursday in the classroom on the mezzanine. Both groups will meet between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m.

There are no restrictions for attending either group, but because the Guild is rooted in building a writer’s community, participants are encouraged to continue attending the same group each week to help build and nurture a community with your fellow writers. Attendance is not mandatory. 

“As for what I’m looking forward to coming out of the group, there’s a lot.” Aubrey concluded. “One of the things I’m hoping for is a public reading where members could share their polished work with an actual audience. Something else is bringing in guest authors and writers, to have themed meetings and events, and to share plenty of book recommendations. Above all, I want the Village Writers Guild to exist as a space for sharing art in a creative and nurturing manner. I want members to look forward to coming, sharing their work, providing feedback for others, and contributing to a group of artists passionate to create anything, everything.”

Interested in hearing more from the Village Writers Guild? Sign up for news and other information with the form below: https://forms.gle/rMHmiar3GERMEFmu9

Village Writers Guild Seeks to Grow Writing Community

Dear Library Community,

Hello! Are you a writer or interested in exploring creative writing? 

The Village Writers Guild, hosted by Aubrey Slaterpryce, at the Potsdam Public Library, offers the space you seek. This space pursues creative freedom and openness, ultimately seeking to have you do one thing: continue to write. During the meetings, members have the opportunity to share written projects they’ve been working on, receive high quality feedback, and engage in various prompts to help start the creative process. Please bring and share your writings of any kind; poetry, fiction and nonfiction, stage and screenplays, or even a graphic novel you’ve been working on! 

The most important part of the workshop is providing feedback for each writer. Structured after the Critical Response Process by Liz Lerman, this feedback requires no outside work—focusing only on your observations in the moment. If interested, you can read more about the Critical Response Process by visiting lizlerman.com/critical-response-process/

We look forward to welcoming you into our growing creative community. Meetings will be held on Sundays (Group A) and Thursdays (Group B) from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Find the meetings at the Potsdam Public Library. On Sundays, Group A will meet on the first floor. On Thursdays, Group B will meet in the upstairs classroom. Please feel free to attend either group, at whatever time is convenient for you. Though, we encourage you to continue attending that group to help build and nurture a community with your fellow writers. 

The first meeting will be held on Thursday, March 3rd, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, and each Sunday and Thursday after that. We recommend you bring a notebook, a writing utensil, and a piece of writing you would love to share!

Hand sanitizer is located near the central circulation desk, on the first floor of the library. It is highly recommended that you wear a mask in attendance.

Interested in hearing more from the Village Writers Guild? Sign up for news and other information with the form below: https://forms.gle/rMHmiar3GERMEFmu9

We hope to see you there!

Aubrey Slaterpryce

aslaterpryce@potsdamlibrary.org

Potsdam Public Library Clerk