Women in Print 2017

Thea Aschkenase, Sharon Healy-Yang, Ph.D., Stacy Amaral
Pam Bobay
Margaret Watson, Linda Miller

The 14th annual WOMEN IN PRINT was held in the Saxe Room of the Worcester Public Library on March 29, 2017. The three local authors featured this year were: Thea Aschkenase, Sharon Healy-Yang, Ph.D. and Stacy Amaral. 

The event began with greetings and announcements about upcoming events from Worcester Women’s History Project Vice-President, Pam Bobay. Ms. Bobay welcomed all three authors, then invited various members of the Events Committee to introduce each of the authors, starting with Fran Langille’s introduction of Thea Aschkenase, author of Remembering: A Holocaust Survivor Shares Her Life. Ms. Langille mentioned that all of the proceeds from Ms. Aschkenase’s memoir are being donated to Worcester State University’s Center for Intergenerational and Urban Studies to be used in the fight against hunger. 

Thea Aschkenase began her talk by remarking that she wrote her memoir “to give a voice to the many people whose voices were silenced.” She was born in Munich and first faced discrimination at age seven when a classmate “complained about having to sit next to a Jewish girl.” In 1938, Ms. Aschkenase’s father tried to seek asylum for the family but they were turned away from many countries. Finally, they were able to obtain visas to travel to Italy. Shortly thereafter, Italy formed an alliance with Germany and was no longer a place of safety for Jewish people. After a period of hiding from the Nazis, Ms. Aschkenase’s family was sent to a concentration camp: Auschwitz. Upon arriving at Auschwitz, Ms. Aschkenase was to be put into a separate group from her parents but she grabbed her mother at the last minute to stay with her. At the time, she felt bad about separating her parents but this action wound up saving her mother’s life in the end. 

While in her seventies, Ms. Aschkenase learned about Worcester State University’s Center for Intergenerational and Urban Studies. She enrolled at the school, earning her degree in Urban Studies in 2007. As part of her degree program, she needed to complete a senior research project and wanted to focus on hunger. She started a free breakfast program at Worcester South - a program which still continues today. Ms. Aschkenase closed her remarks by stating: “Telling my story to young people makes an impact. They assure me they will do everything in their power to make sure this (the Holocaust) will never happen again.” 

Fran Langille returned to introduce Dr. Sharon Healy-Yang, author of Bait and Switch, a mystery/ romance set in 1943. Ms. Langille described the author as a “1940s kind of gal” who teaches English at Worcester State University, writes mystery novels, and often dresses in clothing designed by her husband that is based on 1940s styles. Dr. Healy-Yang remarked that she grew up watching 1940s films and she loved “their style of dress, the great mysteries, and the snappy dialogue.” She also referred to the clever, witty mystery novels from the past, such as novels by Raymond Chandler. These movies and novels were the inspiration for Bait and Switch and for the book's heroine, Jessica Minton: a smart, spunky, witty woman. She has also written a sequel entitled Letters from a Dead Man, which has been picked up by a publisher to be released at some point. 

Dr. Healy-Yang mentioned that she likes to cast characters as if they were in a movie. She based a lot of her book on watching old movies and from talking to her parents about life in the 1940s. She described her parents as having a great sense of humor and a great sense of self-sufficiency. She closed by saying her book is an homage to her parents, their generation, and to the films of the time. 

Patricia Faron introduced the final author of the evening, Stacy Amaral. Ms. Amaral’s book, Sharing Voices: Getting from There to Here, is based around people she has met from Worcester’s Main South neighborhood. Ms. Amaral started by thanking the thirteen people featured in the book, many of whom were in the audience at WOMEN IN PRINT. She read a bit from the opening pages of Sharing Voices, setting the scene of the Main South neighborhood where she has lived since 1971 and introducing the people whose stories are included in the book.

Of those who participated in the book she said, “Each voice represents a different person and their courage to leave their country of origin and make their home somewhere else.” Ms. Amaral mentioned that a common element she noticed between her upbringing in Brooklyn and raising her own children in Main South was having a lot of older people in the neighborhood looking out for them. Her book acts to show Main South as a true community, made up of individuals from many different places who have come together to form a close-knit, interconnected neighborhood over several decades. 

At the end of Ms. Amaral’s remarks, Pam Bobay returned to thank the authors, presenting them each with a bag of gifts including a complimentary membership to WWHP. She encouraged the audience to ask questions. A lively conversation followed about immigration, as a tie-in to Thea Aschkenase’s story and to Sharing Voices

While introducing Stacy Amaral, Patricia Faron made the comment, “The past that we have and the past of other people is so important in shaping who we are.” This comment struck me as truly summing up the common thread among all three authors and also echoing the mission of WWHP: “We remember our past...to better shape our future.”

Published Date: 
September 16, 2017