Hope in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum

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Hope in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum ISBN: 9781934813416

Plot Summary: When we meet our protagonist, Ashley, she has recently moved from her mother and stepfather’s home, where she was being sexually abused, to the home of her estranged father and his wife, whom Ashley had never met before. She struggles to adjust in her new life: to her new family, to her school, to the idea of being safe. But every day is a battle to not spiral into the same feelings of worthlessness and anger. She has the support of her father and his wife, Bev, who is an English teacher at Ashley’s school, her new friend Z.Z., and her therapist Dr. Matt, but she can’t seem to get over the past. She keeps reliving the abuse and the betrayal of her mother and grandparents when they sided with her stepfather, Charlie. But her new life has struggles too. Bev has come under fire from the school board for teaching controversial literature in her classes. Ashley and Z.Z. feel like outcasts on the cross country running team. And Ashley has to see her mother and Charlie in court for the time they visited and Charlie broke Ashley’s arm. Even worse, her dark past has come out at school. Who can Ashley trust? How can she keep from self-destructing all over again?

Critical Evaluation: This book packs a lot in. While we are learning about Ashley’s struggle with past sexual abuse, we are also tackling censorship in schools, religious fundamentalism, bullies, teens who are overweight, homosexuality, and estranged parents. While in some ways it might have been easier to digest with fewer issues, I’m sure there are people who deal with all of this at the same time. It also provided the author with the opportunity to provide her answers to each of those different situations. Maybe this makes the theme the most important literary element in this story. What I took from this story was a theme of self-love, acceptance of people for who they are, and overall understanding. Ashley needs to learn how to love herself and forgive herself for the things that happened to her. She needs to accept that her mother and grandparents are wrong, and that they may never see Ashley’s side of things. The controversy in the English class demonstrated that people come from different backgrounds, and may have difficulty accepting other people’s lifestyles, or things that go against what they believe. Censorship is a way for those people to keep things out of the classroom that they don’t believe or agree with. However, by the end of this book, those students have taken some steps to be more tolerant of others, and thus, are more understanding of the world around them.

In regards to the character development, I couldn’t help feeling as though each character was sort of an archetype used to get across a point. Perhaps this was somewhat intentional on Fehlbaum’s part, to make the story a little more universal. Besides cross country, Ashley doesn’t have a lot of interests. She is really focused on her past. Not having experienced a trauma like hers, I can’t comment on whether or not there is a period of intense focus, before you can begin to rebuild your individuality. The mean girl on the cross country team stays generally mean. Even when she apologizes, it rings false. Marcus, the religious fundamentalist in Ashley’s English class shows the most transformation when he partners with K.C., Z.Z., and Ashley, in that he steps off of his platform and tries to understand how some people could have different opinions of beliefs than him. But he remains in essence, himself, as characterized by his religious beliefs, and not much else.

Reader’s Annotation: Starting over is hard. For Ashley, she can’t seem to get away from her abusive childhood, whether through her own memories, the visits from her abusive stepfather, or the vicious rumor going around school.

Information about the author: Beth Fehlbaum based much of what happens in “Hope in Patience” and the two other books in the trilogy on her own childhood. When she was 9 years old, her stepfather started to sexually abuse her. This continued to escalate until Beth told her mother what was going on in high school. Her mother refused to do anything about it. Instead of telling someone else, as Ashley does in the novel, she tried to become the perfect daughter to keep her mother comfortable. This led to an eating disorder, and a host of emotional challenges that Beth carries to some extent to this day.

As an adult, her therapist encouraged her to write about the experiences, from with the Patience Trilogy was born. She is currently an English teacher in Eastern Texas, with a bachelor’s degree in English, a minor in secondary education, and a master’s degree in Reading. She is married to her high school sweetheart and has three daughters.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Curriculum ties, if any: This book could aid a discussion about psychology, or abuse. It also incorporates several works of literature that also deal with different issues a teen might encounter, so it might be interesting to work into a thematic unit.

Booktalking Ideas: I think I would work the compassionate angle for booktalking this book. Maybe something along the lines of: “We all struggle in high school. We fight with our parents and friends, try to get good grades, try to figure out where we are going with our lives, how to just have fun. But imagine if…”

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ashley is 15 and a sophomore in high school. School Library Journal recommends this title for grades 8 and up; Booklist for grades 10-12.

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence
  • Language
  • Difficult concepts
  • Homosexuality

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

I would argue that books of this nature are some of the most important for teens to have access to. As we learned from speaking with the author, this situation does happen to teens. Parents who would wish to shelter their children from what happens here aren’t protecting them, they are simply keeping them ignorant of real life for a little longer, making them less equipped to handle difficult situations. Even though I never dealt with anything similar in my teen years, I think this would have been an important book for me to have read, not only to prepare myself to encounter something like this, but to have more compassion for others around me. Perhaps the teens I sometimes found crying in the hallways of my high school had issues of a similar magnitude. Perhaps they could have benefited from sympathy and understanding instead of odd looks.

Why did you include this book? : It was a required text for class, but it also presents a difficult situation that is a reality for some teens, and provides a look at the healing process.

Reference Page (if directly citing material):

Fehlbaum, B. (2012). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.bethfehlbaumya.com/bio.htm

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  1. Pingback: Alphabetical List of Titles | let's talk about that book...

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