Category Archives: Memoir

Welcome, Vanessa de Largie!



Don’t Hit Me!


Australian actr51g8QOScbEL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_ess and author Vanessa de Largie is a survivor of domestic violence.

Don’t Hit Me is the true diarised account of her time living with an abusive man. The story is conveyed through poems, journal entries and fragments of lyrical prose. The book is a snapshot of domestic violence in real time. Raw, poignant and brave – it’s a tale that will stay with you.

*What People Are Saying About It*


#1 Amazon Bestseller

# Winner of the 2014 Global eBook Award Bronze (women’s studies)

# Winner of the 2014 Honourable Mention Award London Book Festival (memoir)

# Five-Star Review Midwest Book Review

# Five-Star Review San Francisco Book Review

# Five-Star Review #1 Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer – UK

# 3 out of 4 stars Official Online Bookclub

*Where To Buy*




*About The Author*




Vanessa de Largie is a multi-award-winning actress and author basedin Australia.  Her most recent book ‘Don’t Hit Me!‘  is a  book about her journey through domestic violence.  The narrative is conveyed through journal entries and fragments of lyrical prose.


*Author Website*

Book Cover

Welcome, Robert Uttaro!

We’re excited to welcome Robert Uttaro to the Highlighted Author. After many years working as a rape crisis counselor, he was inspired to write about his journey — the countless horrors, the endless battles, and the priceless victories. This is not a book for the faint of heart, but one for those who believe in triumph over the toughest obstacles and redemption from the deepest, darkest places. Enjoy the feature!

—Jo Grafford, Highlighted Author Co-Hostess

To the Survivors

Book Cover

One Man’s Journey as Rape Crisis Counselor with True Stories of Sexual Violence. 


Here is a list, God, of everything I’m never forgetting.

Burns on her legs.

Impressions of his hands around her neck.

The all over purple-ly skin.

She can not

will not

can not

will not

can not

will not do the internal part of that effing kit, no.

(I hang back in the waiting room as they implore her for hours and pray they will…oh-my-god…stop raping.)

She can not

will not

can not

will not

can not

will not

can not

will not say his name, no. 

(She gives up, writes alphabet letters only kind of true; no matter love, I understand you.)

A 72-hour psych hold.

Cops and detectives.

My brother-in-law in rare tears the morning not-one-of-us-slept after.

Silence all these years.

And the prize for speaking? A brand new horror show.

Doesn’t seem worth it now or ever.

She never feels clean.

She’ll never.

Not after a hundred hospital showers.

Her fear of the past.

Her fear of today.

Her fear of tomorrow and every hour before and after this moment.

The questions.

The shaking.

The stares of strangers and remembering when.

(I’m struggling not to vomit. We’re trying not to live this.)

“Can they see it on me?” She wonders like before.

“Why can’t they see it, the secret I can’t say?”

She says prayers, but not like the ones she prays when he comes home to decide, “I miss your mother” and “You know, you’re so pretty.”

Try again. I see a light in the sky.

Your heart is broken.

My heart is broken.

Our heart is bro-ken. 

(But… try them again.)

-A poem Jenee wrote in response to visiting her friend in the hospital who was beaten, choked, burned, and raped.

I never thought I would volunteer at a rape crisis center. I always knew rape and sexual assault existed, but for most of my life I did not seriously consider ways in which I could help those affected by sexual violence. I could not imagine that a large number of people actually experience such an evil and detrimental horror as rape is, but unfortunately many do. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would help play a positive role in the healing process of rape and sexual assault survivors, educate people, and be active in the fight against sexual violence, but often times our lives go in different directions than we plan or expect.

Sexual violence is very complex. Given that, I will not speak for every human being who has been affected by this crime. This book is by no means a blue print of how all rapes and sexual assaults occur, nor will I tell you how to feel. I do not have all of the answers to the many difficult questions that arise when discussing sexual violence, and I obviously do not know everyone who has experienced sexual violence. This book is about my experiences as a rape crisis counselor and the survivors I have met who felt strong enough and comfortable enough to share their stories with me and you. I have my opinions and ideas about different aspects of sexual violence, but neither I nor the people you will soon meet speak for humanity. Everyone’s story is his or her own. Everyone’s story is different. Growth and healing is different for everyone.

Sexual violence is not only a violent crime, but it is also a serious health issue. It affects people’s bodies, minds, hearts, and souls. I do not wish to name anyone’s experiences or claim knowledge of all the effects people may feel as a result of sexual violence, but I do know some things. I have learned that many survivors of sexual violence feel shame. Shame directly causes a variety of negative health issues, including mentalities about one’s self and behaviors. I hope to attempt to alleviate some of that shame through this book.

I have always cared about people and the world we all live in. As long as I can remember, I have been intrigued by the complexities of the human experience and questioned what it means to be human. It is fascinating to me that some people are happy, fulfilled, or loving, while others are unhappy, unfulfilled, or hateful. Even as a young boy, I questioned, Why is there so much hatred and violence in the world? Why do some people hate other people? Why do some people hurt other people? Why do some people rape other people? Why do some people kill other people? I have come to understand that I may never know the answers to these questions and many of the other difficult life questions that people contemplate, but one thing I do know is this: There are far too many men, women, and children who are sexually violated. It is my opinion that we are foolish if we do not take the issue of sexual violence seriously and help play a positive role in the healing process of individuals who experience it, as well as those indirectly impacted by it.

This book is not about statistics. The statistics are certainly out there; you can research and read them for yourself if you want to. I, however, will not share or focus on statistics because I do not want to treat people as numbers. Also, I believe rape and sexual assault are the least reported violent crimes. If it is true that these are the least reported crimes, then that means most of the people who experience these crimes are not represented in those statistics. To me, giving flawed and inaccurate statistics of rape and sexual assault is a disservice to those who do not report.

I believe there are many justified reasons why most people do not report, but I will mention two major reasons: First, many survivors do not report because they fear they will not be believed. Many have an image in their head about what a victim should look like because of the media and therefore will not report. Second, it is extremely difficult to report a violent crime against someone that is known to the person. Most survivors know their perpetrators, and the relationship between them makes reporting even harder than it might have been if the crime were perpetrated by a stranger. The bottom line is none of us will be able to understand the full extent of how common sexual violence is based on statistics because the statistics are only a fraction of what really occurs.

Order now on Amazon.

Radio Interview: Donna Seebo Show

Click here to listen to the interview.

About the Author

picI currently reside in Boston, Massachusetts and am in my eighth year of working as a rape crisis counselor, public speaker and community educator. Inspired by my undergraduate studies in Criminal Justice, I continue to embrace a life-long commitment to activism and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence. I support rape survivors and their significant others through various health, legal, and case management issues. I also facilitate workshops aimed at education, prevention and exposure of the realities of sexual violence.

I did not consider myself a writer and never once tried to write a book until one experience changed my life. This experience was a dream I had. I woke up from this dream and said, “I have to write a book”. I interpreted this dream as a vision from God. I prayed to God, moved from the bed to the computer, opened up Microsoft Word, and continued to pray. This is how the book To the Survivors began.

Connect with Robert

Website     Facebook     Twitter


“A moving series of survivor stories… This book is both informative for the general public and supportive for those who have suffered sexual abuse. It is hard to imagine that members of either group will not gain from reading it.” – Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

To the Survivors weaves together many candid accounts to form a brave and alarming exposé of assault. It is a worthwhile, eye-opening project.” – Foreword Clarion Reviews

“An engaging examination of a painful subject, with a focus on healing and forgiveness.” – Kirkus Reviews

To the Survivors is quite a read. It’s informative.  It is very compassionate. It is insightful. I think you have presented more than one perspective. And you haven’t done it from a positioning of one-sidedness. You really have covered quite a few different perspectives, both of those that have been the victims of this horrific act and those that want to help. So I really think it’s quite a powerfully packed book. To the Survivors is a very powerful one.”     – Donna Seebo, The Donna Seebo Show

Welcome, Claudette Alexander

We are excited to spotlight Claudette Alexander on the Highlighted Author — particularly during the holidays — as her story is one of selfless service. With a heart for those less fortunate than herself, Claudette is currently working with patients to help them indulge in full and happy lives despite their struggles with chronic illnesses. Her debut novel is a memoir about some of the heartrending challenges that immigrants face. Enjoy the feature.

Merry Christmas!

–Jo Grafford, Highlighted Author Co-Host

A Note from Claudette

71N9nAABDTL._UX250_I was taught by Catholic nuns elementary through high school. In addition I had protective brothers and a dad.  They kept me on the straight and narrow road.

As a teenager growing up in St.Lucia, I was fascinated with the Mills and Boon series and always envisioned some Prince coming down some mountain to rescue my heart. Hence my obsession with love and romance.

My other passion is fighting for the rights of the underdog. I did a good bit of fighting as a union president. These days my fight is to empower people with knowledge on how to live happily with chronic conditions.

I have always wanted to write a book but the desire intensified when I survived a three months stay in the hospital fighting for my life. Initially I wanted to write children’s books and also write a book for my sons to know the love that transpired with their dads before their birth since they grew up fatherless.

By the time I was finished with my debut novel it evolved into a memoir.  SUNRISE FROM AN ICY HEART: A MEMOIR is about my journey as an immigrant in love, work, motherhood, and healthcare. In addition it envelopes all that is special about St. Lucia, its people, culture and beauty.

Next on my agenda is writing stories for my grandchildren. I have begun entering contest stories by grandmas.

Links to Claudette:

Book trailer | YouTube | Amazon Author Page | Website | Facebook


Sunrise From An Icy Heart

81G+FnXPFjL._SL1500_SUNRISE FROM AN ICY HEART: A MEMOIR will take you on a discovery of the human need to find a special kind of love, raise loving sons and rise above the strangling odds that face immigrants.

A story of survival and determination, from St. Lucia to Canada through a midst of rejections, abandonment and the power to smash through the fence of fear and fly.

A sensual, amusing, and fun read that will stimulate your senses, make you laugh, cry and learn some essential life lessons.

This book is intended for mature readers.

Order on AMAZON or Barnes and Noble.



The glowing-hot sun rose from the sea and splashed its morning warmth, but a cold chill crept through my veins.

“We’ll be together soon, baby,” said Linus, his voice an undertone whisper. His kiss was long and deep, as he said goodbye.

We embraced for a lingering minute while I inhaled his Brut cologne, a scent forever remembered.  As our embrace uncoiled, our puffy eyes clinched revealing our pain, faces cast downward with pressed lips. His hand squeezed mine, then he turned, crossed the scorching asphalt-laden tarmac, and ran up the stairs. He stood at the top, gave a final look, his eyes making images of the life he was leaving behind, then he disappeared into the airplane.

My chest felt heavy as if a boulder sat on it. In rapid succession, I breathed. My life was at a low ebb and gray as the metal wings that would fly him away from me. In a brittle tone. I whispered. “When? my love, when? while through blurred vision I watched my man take off like Christopher Columbus to conquer new land. I took in all of his leaving. His light blue shirt-jacket hung so magnificently off his square shoulders, long legs in navy blue pants and with each forward stride the pain on my chest intensified.

I plodded to the car. My new companions followed–hurt, headache, heartbreak. Each in turn slicing, snipping, shaving a little piece from my heart, until I thought it was demolished. For healing depended upon patience, resilience and endurance.  I had none of those. I was null and void. Hope his move to Canada to seek a better life does not backfire.

My Dad, Oliver Alexander, would not allow me to move to Canada with Linus Hyacinth. “If the man loves you he will send for you after he gets settled,” he said. “Make no sense the two of you going up in a foreign country, and none of you know nothing about the place.”

I believe he loves me but they say out of sight out of mind, or absence makes the heart grow fonder. Lord, let it be the latter. I hope Dad was right.  

Walking past a few workmen on the airport, someone whistled, the wind wavered in the almond trees nearby, as I hurried into the car. I sat gazing at the stretch of turquoise sea water, breathing in the breeze. The tranquility of the aqua embodied me and I remembered happier days with Linus, my Mandingo man. As minutes crawled into hours, I wondered how long I would have to wait for his dark skinned body to touch mine. Or how long before I rubbed my hand over his muscled curved rump, or looked at his handsome face, a square forehead, and penetrating eyes with a half smile that gave people the impression he was x-raying them. Lord, don’t let any woman in Canada poison his mind and make him forget me.

As I thought about my emptiness, pleasing images of time spent together began to infiltrate my mind.
We met in 1968, the year when Linus’ sister married my uncle and through the ensuing introductions.  Timothy, the virginity protector, had left the island to pursue his own dreams so there was no brotherly interference. At 18, I attended St. Joseph’s Convent Secondary School. Linus, at 20, was already out in the workforce doing his architectural drawings. Many days he would drive me to and from school. We were in full obedience of our hearts. Being with each other was enough. We needed no extra stimulant. Sometimes when he worked late, I went to his workplace, sat and chatted as he did his drafting. We met every day. We loved to dance, go to parties, picnics or just chill with friends and some rum punch. Being with him made life so golden and radiant. I was deliriously happy.

Dad, with his height, dark skin and eyebrows that patrolled his forehead like black battleships ready to meet any threat to his family frightened male suitors. To avoid encountering him, Linus went to a nearby bridge and whistled when he wanted to visit me. I got pumped up when I heard the signal to join him. Whenever Dad was not around Linus came to my house and we sat on the steps till the wee hours of the night. I always wore a skirt so he could get easy access to the pleasure spots with his long delightful fingers. I learned the joys of figure eights and calligraphic lettering in my body. One night, the expected whistle came when my siblings and I sat at the table watching Dad eat his dinner. Our usual way of waiting for the leftovers. The family custom was to consume a big breakfast, big lunch, and at nights something light such as tea and biscuits, or juice, and a sandwich. Dad always had three big meals a day.

As I stood up to leave, Dad said, “Claudette, sit your ass down.”

I tilted my head to the side and in a low voice, asked, “Whyyyyyy?”

“No decent girl would have a man whistle her across a bridge.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The whistle. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about because if you had any decency you would make the young man come to the house. Futhermore, I don’t want you to be with this man unless he comes to the house, introduces himself, and state his intentions.”

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