West Windsor, N.J. – In celebration of Community College Month, seven authors affiliated with Mercer County Community College (MCCC) discussed their creative process and content of their books at a special “Meet the Authors” event for the public on April 30.
As she introduced each author, Mercer President Patricia C. Donohue noted that the presentation was a mix of scholarly works, novels and memoirs by six current and retired professors, and a member of the Board of Trustees.
“The topics represent a cross section of the rich and diverse culture of the MCCC community,” Donohue said.
Featured authors included faculty member Dr. Jo Anne Craig, who described her semi-autobiographical novel, “When Is It My Time to Cry,” as cathartic. Noting that like her protagonist, Victoria, she too has experienced painful losses in her life, she said, “As I wrote the book, I began to heal. After reading it, women have approached me to thank me. They have told me, ‘Now I know how to let go,’” Craig said.
History Professor Padhraig Higgins is the author of “A Nation of Politicians: Gender, Patriotism, and Political Culture in Late Eighteenth-Century Ireland,” published in 2010. He noted that he became interested in this little-reviewed period in history partly because it parallels the American Revolution. “The Irish armed themselves seeking political independence from Britain, but did not use violence,” he said. “The threat was enough because the British were overextended in America.” His research also revealed a growing role for women in the political realm.
In his contemplative book “Three Crooked Roads,” author Charles Stansbury focused on three issues of key concern in the African American community: gang violence, obesity and homelessness. He discussed the topics by recalling examples from his own life.
“I have seen people go from the dark side to the light side and back again. Eventually you choose how you will live,” Stansbury said.
Three professors emeriti joined the panel. Retired English Professor James Franklin is the author of “Inside Out: Fifty Years Behind the Walls of New Jersey’s Trenton State Prison,” which he wrote with former Trenton State Prison corrections officer Harry Camisa.
Franklin recalled having Camisa as a student during his very first year as a college professor, when he taught an English course for corrections officers at Trenton State through a government-funded program.
They reunited many years later. Camisa gave Franklin a tour of the prison prior to its closing and revealed his fantastic memory of the prisoners and the details of their stories.
"It was a book in the making," Franklin said.
Published in 2002, “Inside Out” has sold well within the corrections community and is used as a text at a number of colleges. It was re-released in 2008 with additional prisoner stories.
Professor Emerita Vera Goodkin discussed her memoir, “In Sunshine and in Shadow.” In it, she shares her story of survival during the Holocaust, a tale she kept private for many years in order to forge ahead with her life. Ultimately, she says she felt compelled to write the book in memory of the family members she lost and her rescuer, the famed Raoul Wallenberg.
“I wanted the world to know that we were not born to be victims. I wanted the world to know that we had a life before the war and, for those who survived, we had a life after," Dr. Goodkin said.
Criminal Justice Professor Emeritus Peter Horne wrote “Women in Law Enforcement” more than three decades ago. He recalled that it grew out of the thesis he wrote as a graduate student studying criminal justice at California State University Working as a police officer while attending college, he observed that there were very few women on the force. “Mostly they were in jobs as meter maids and administrators,” he recalled.