Monday, March 01, 2021
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Deborah Clark Vance
Genre: Women's Fiction
As she enters adulthood in the turbulent 1970s, Sylvie thinks the way to change a violent world is to become a peaceful person. Yet she slowly sees how a childhood trauma thwarts her peaceful intentions and leads her to men with a dark side – including Enzo, the man she marries. Even as his behavior becomes increasingly volatile, she believes she can make things better with love and understanding. But finally living in terror. Sylvie must find a way to escape with her daughter and a way to claim her place in the world.
The next morning, Sylvie went to return Olga's milk pail. She breathed in the scent of tilled earth arising from the hot fields as she walked along the cobblestones that lay like rows of solid bubbles even after centuries of hooves and feet had worked to flatten them. Coming through a dark passageway, she entered the bright piazza and tripped on a cobblestone's humped back and the pail flew from her outstretched hands as she stumbled. Olga and Griselda were perched on a ledge, the tiny vines of their calico aprons extending up from the stones. Relieved she didn't land on her belly, they heaved a loud sigh as from a single breast, then laughed.
“We always fell down, too,” said Griselda. “When I was pregnant, I fell down a whole flight of stairs,” said Olga.
“Maybe by the time I’m used to all this weight, the baby will be born,” Sylvie said, leaning sideways to pick up the pail.
“Yes, and you’ll be carrying the little one in your arms instead,” said Olga.
Sylvie was about to sit when Griselda gasped so loudly that Sylvie jumped up, expecting to find a snake slithering behind her. “No! You might lose the baby if you sit on that cold stone!”
Sylvie’s heart pounded. “I could’ve lost it from fright just now!”
Olga folded up her sweater to make a cushion for her.
“Just beware of the extremes,” said Griselda. “Hot and cold.”
Sylvie wanted to rebel against all these restrictions but, without facts to counter them, didn’t dare. Besides, she admired Griselda and Olga. They’d never sit in Café Miraggio and discuss whether the economy balanced on women’s backs. But who in Café Miraggio could do what they did, bring forth life out of soil, prune grapevines and tie their branches to trellises, gather wood into bundles and sling them over their shoulders, scramble up the hill and out of sight on spring days when porcini were growing in their secret places, move quick and sure, like rabbits darting home?
When Sylvie was eight, Mom handed her a seed packet bearing pictures of bright blue morning glories, suggesting she plant them by the arbor. Smiling, Mom said, “Read the instructions.” Sylvie took the seeds outside, poked holes in the soil with her finger and dropped them in, not knowing she’d planted them too deep, and quietly despaired when they never surfaced. She never mentioned it and Mom forgot about it. And when she planted seeds in the garden Olga gave her, she regarded the seedlings with awe, as if she’d performed a miracle. But no, it’s the spirit of life pushing through the earth as the spirit of life was in her belly. Where Mom struggled underneath male definitions, these women, growing out of their village stone, knew how their femaleness fit not just on the planet but in society. It was as if they included her in their water line.
Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Deborah Clark Vance has lived throughout the US and in Italy. While raising her children, she earned a living by teaching piano lessons, selling her original artwork, editing a health journal, translating Italian, writing freelance articles and textbook chapters, working on a children's educational TV series, teaching in a day treatment program for adults with mental and emotional illnesses, creating garden designs and teaching as a college adjunct. After completing a Ph.D. in Communication and Culture at Howard University, she taught and served as Chair of the Department of Communication & Cinema at McDaniel College in Maryland. Although she also contributed articles and chapters to academic publications, those only earned her a modicum of prestige rather than income. She's keenly interested in the natural world as well as in social justice, spirituality and women's issues. "Sylvie Denied" is her debut novel.
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