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Women Who Overcame Adversity Are Subject Of New Book By National City Teacher

The cover of "Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women" is pictured.
Courtesy of Mango Publishing
The cover of "Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women" is pictured.

A National City teacher profiled 25 women who overcame adversity in her new book "Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women."

Marlene Wagman-Geller, who teaches at Sweetwater High School, said the idea for the book came from a conversation she had with a stranger.

"I met this woman who had all kinds of troubles, like more than the garden variety kind of troubles and after she finished telling me I just didn't know anything to say to her and then she said something that resonated with me, which is 'hell, I'm still here,'" Wagman-Geller said. "... as I was driving home I said 'that's the book,' if I could just compile women who underwent a tsunami of pain but they didn't just survive, they prevailed, maybe it would be helpful to people who are going through their own emotional troubles."


In the book, Wagman-Geller profiled well-known women such as Maya Angelou, Malala Yousafzai and Helen Keller, as well as lesser-known women like Gail Devers, who went to Sweetwater High School in National City and went on to become a three-time Olympic champion despite her battle with Graves disease.

Wagman-Geller said she also was inspired to write about strong women in this book and her previous book because women are sometimes missing from standard history and literature curriculum.

"I do want my students and other women to know that yeah, they are in good company," she said.

Wagman-Geller will be speaking about the book Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Warwicks in La Jolla.

Women Who Overcame Adversity Are Subject Of New Book By National City Teacher
Women Who Overcame Adversity Are Subject Of New Book By National City Teacher GUESTS:Marlene Wagman-Geller, author, "Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women"

Earlier this year, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell gave feminists a new slogan. McConnell told reporters that he warned Senator Elizabeth Warren to stop making critical remarks, but, nevertheless, she persisted. In the same way that persistent comment he vote images of resilient women who would not be silenced, comes a new compilation of profiles by a San Diego writer. It is called, still I rise. The persistence of phenomenal women. Joining me is the author Marlene Wagman-Geller. Welcome to the program. You were a guest last year to talk about your book, profiling the women behind the world's famous men. The idea for this new book still I rise, come as a result of that book?They were just too different, because the first book was the forgotten woman behind the great man that somehow got sidelined in history, like Mrs. Conti or Mrs. Karl Marx, this book is a little bit different. This woman had all kinds of troubles. And, after she finished telling me, I didn't know what to say to her, then she said something that resonated with me which is, I'm still here. I had been looking for a title for a new book but, inspiration like, love doesn't come when beckoned, and as I was driving home, I said that's the book. If I can just compile these, maybe it would be helpful to people who are going through their own emotional troubles and that was the genesis of this book.This comes from a work by Maia Angelo. How does that connect with the topic of your book?She was on the people that I profiled because she had such a difficult life, she grew up in Arkansas, and she was at the bottom of the social hierarchy, being a woman, being African-American, being poor, she was a victim of childhood rape, and when she told people who her attacker was, her uncles went and killed the man. On top of everything, she felt guilt, and she has lost her power to speak for a year or two because she was so traumatized by the event. Yet, she became the poet laureate of America, so I thought what an inspirational woman. One of the things that I mentioned in the chapter, she spoke at President Clinton's inauguration, and he turned to her and said, not bad for two kids from the wrong side of the Arkansas track. So I thought, if she could come and prevail after all that, it just shows, if we don't let life bring us down, that we can be unbowed at the end.Are the familiar names we would recognize featured in your book?I try to use women who were famous but, their backgrounds were not known. I think we knew a little bit about Maia Angelo as the poet laureate, but her biographical details, where she came from, to get where she was, I think that we know the accomplishments but not the long road that led to those accompaniments. There were some women I haven't even known about prior to writing, like a civil rights worker, she had an amazing story.There is one of the women that you profiled, she was a former student of yours.Yes, I teach at Sweetwater high school and she was a student in my school, and she was always running the track. The track is now named after her, and she had Graves' disease and she had all these, she ended up winning the Olympics, I think three time gold medalist. So, she was another woman I profiled.There are 25 profiles of women, and many of them are women of color, why did you make that choice?I think the reason is because traditionally, in our society, they had the hardest road to trot. They were facing segregation, poverty, because they usually went hand-in-hand, so that is why I think of these women. But, that is why, traditionally, they did have it's really difficult.As you mentioned, you are a teacher, and is it still hard to find strong role models for young women in standard history and literature curriculum?I think so. Dorothy Parker once said, it is a man's world. And I think, to an extent, it still is. And that is one of the reasons why both of these books have been on strong women figures because I do want my students and other women to know that yes, they are in good company.Now, Marlene Wagman-Geller will be talking about her book, at Warwick's books tonight at 7:30. Thank you so much. Be sure to watch the evening tradition -- edition tonight, and you can join us again tomorrow for the midday addition at noon. If you ever miss a show, you can check out the podcast. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, thank you for listening.