In the Stacks

Spring 2009

In the Stacks with Alumnae Authors

By Shannon E. Brewer ’03

As a liberal arts college focused on educating proficient writers, Saint Mary’s has graduated generations of published authors. From Sister Madeleva Wolff, C.S.C., to Avenue aficionado Kymberly Dunlap ‘04, our alumnae have made great strides in the literary world. As alumna and author Therese J. Borchard ’93 puts it, “In a sense, I think Saint Mary’s has prepared every student to be a writer if she chooses to follow that path.” Below we feature a small selection of notable alumnae authors, many of whom attribute their literary know-how to a Saint Mary’s education.

Adriana Trigiani ’80

Wander through the rows of Cushwa-Leighton Library’s fiction section and you’ll find the shelves stocked with books by alumna author Adriana Trigiani. Of course, you’ll also find her books at any bookstore worth its muster. The bestselling author of the Big Stone Gap series, Trigiani has published a novel per year since 2000. She recalls Saint Mary’s fondly as the place she was encouraged to hone her craft. “I was lucky to go to Saint Mary’s and have the world’s best professors guide me as a young writer,” says Trigiani. “Max Westler set me on a path of whimsy and joy; Sister Jean Klene—Shakespeare and storytelling; Reg Bain—theater—well, I could go on and on.”

This spring Trigiani released her latest novel Very Valentine (Harper, 2009), a story about a family of shoemakers in Greenwich Village. “Very Valentine is a full expression of the fundamentals I learned and built upon: storytelling, dialogue, arc, and substance,” says Trigiani. “All of these, I learned and cultivated at Saint Mary’s.”

Sister Madeleva Wolff, C.S.C. 1909

One of our most revered alumnae, Sister M. Madeleva Wolff, C.S.C., was a prolific writer. She published a cadre of literary works throughout her life, including collections of her poetry and theological essays. Sister Madeleva transferred to Saint Mary’s as a sophomore from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, finished her sophomore and junior years at Saint Mary’s, and then joined the convent, completing her degree as a member of the Holy Cross Congregation. Sister Madeleva served as president of the College from 1934 to 1961. A contemporary of C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton, she corresponded regularly with both on theological matters. Sister Madeleva is considered one of the great theological minds—male or female—of her time.

Marijean Boueri ’82

Marijean Boueri studied English literature at Saint Mary’s. She now writes for children. She has published two children’s books, Lebanon 1-2-3 (Publishing Works, Inc., 2005) and Lebanon A-Z: A Middle Eastern Mosaic (Publishing Works, Inc., 2006), co-written with Jill Boutros and Joanne Sayad. The books reflect her international lifestyle and interest in sharing Lebanon’s rich cultural heritage with children across the globe. Boueri has lived in Beirut, Lebanon, with her husband and children since 1997.

Lebanon 1-2-3 is subtitled “A Counting Book in Three Languages: English, French, Arabic.” Boueri’s words, framed in colorful detail on the right-hand pages, appear in poetic couplets, which are then translated in French and Arabic beneath. The book is beautifully illustrated by Mona Trad Dabaji whose paintings depict a family’s cozy home life in Lebanon.

Therese J. Borchard ’93

Author and blogger Therese J. Borchard dealt with life’s big questions as a religious studies major. “Saint Mary’s prepared me about as well as any small liberal college could, because I learned to become an analytical thinker,” she says. This became an important skill for Borchard as she began to write after graduation. She has published books that explore the history and theology of Catholicism, compilations including The Imperfect Mom: Candid Confessions of Mothers Living in the Real World (Broadway, 2006), and various articles and essays. After giving birth to her daughter, Borchard experienced what she considers a nervous breakdown. While recovering, she wrestled, once again, with the important issues of faith and now mental health. The breakdown changed her life, including her creative life. “I wanted to combine my faith perspective with mental-health information that would help others who suffer from mood disorders,” explains Borchard. She does this every day through her blog “Beyond Blue” on Beliefnet.com. Her memoir, Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression and Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes (Center Street, 2009) will be released in May.

Karin Gurtzweiler Perozek ’94

Alumna author Karin Gurtzweiler Perozek recently published a book for teens with her husband Timothy Perozek (ND ’93) called Up Your Aspirations by Thinking Like a Kid and Earning Like a CEO (iUniverse, 2007). It’s a timely publication for those concerned with the current economic crisis. But the book addresses teens, not adults.

Perozek says the idea for the book, advice for teens looking to make and save money, formed from her and her husband’s life experiences. As teenagers, the pair earned money for college by doing odd jobs, from mowing lawns to teaching private art lessons. Recently they compiled all of the ideas and wrote the book in what Perozek calls, “a very fun, tongue-in-cheek, somewhat irreverent, straight-forward manner for teens. It’s a humorously written book that teaches kids how to make money and have fun while doing so.”

Perozek, who graduated from Saint Mary’s with a degree in fine art, says her experience at the College prepared her to write the book and pursue any other goal she wished. “Attending Saint Mary’s gave me the courage to be open to whatever life brought my way,” Perozek says. “My education gave me the confidence to continue to always grow, change, evolve, and explore the person I am meant to become.”

Kathryn Christenson Janiszewski ’64

“Write about something you know well, are passionate about, and know that you will revise again and again.” That sound writing advice comes from Kathryn Christenson Janiszewski. And she should know. This alumna author graduated from Saint Mary’s with a degree in elementary education, then went on to obtain her master’s degree in education with an emphasis on reading for adults from Loyola College in Baltimore. Her career has involved teaching writing to elementary school students, which, she says, helped build her own writing skills.

Recently Janiszewski published a book she has been working on sporadically for thirteen years. Only One Returned tells the story of her father’s harrowing return from a flight-bombing mission over Germany during World War II. “I often told the story of my father’s escape and by the time I would finish, those listening were often in tears,” says Janiszewski. “They would say to me, ‘You should write that story.’” Janiszewski heeded their advice. “I think I can offer an example for those who like to write, have the time, and want to preserve stories for their families.”

Kymberly Dunlap ’04

Kymberly Dunlap corresponded with hundreds of Saint Mary’s alumnae while compiling her book Saint Mary’s College: Her Memories Beyond the Avenue. The alumna graduated from the College with a B.B.A. in business administration. On a return visit to campus the October after her graduation, Dunlap spoke with fellow alumnae of other generations. She realized the importance of preserving their stories. “It occurred to me that these intriguing stories would be lost forever if they were not documented by the women who experienced them,” she explains.

Dunlap set about gathering alumnae memories, largely via e-mail. “I quickly learned that our alumnae are so giving of themselves, whether it’s making a new lifetime friend or achieving a childhood dream,” she says. In writing the book, Dunlap fulfilled a dream of her own. “Writing a book has been a childhood dream of mine that was forgotten until that first weekend in October 2004, and my love of Saint Mary’s rekindled that memory,” Dunlap reflects. “The one thing that stands out the most for me is that the Saint Mary’s community is a transformational leader that teaches each student that she can be anyone and achieve more than ever thought possible.”

Did we miss an author? While we could not feature every alumna author in this story, the library can. If you know of an alumna who has published a book, please contact the director of the Cushwa-Leighton Library, Janet Fore, at jfore@saintmarys.edu or (574) 284-5281.