February is Black History Month in Canada and African American History Month in the Unites States. If you're looking for an inspiring story, no matter your color, then I can recommend Dr. Yvonne Thornton's memoirs.
Dr. Yvonne Thornton is the best selling author of The Ditch Digger's Daughter: A Black Family's Astonishing Sucess Story and Inside Information for Women. Dr. Thornton is also the first African American woman in the United States to become a double-Board Certified specialist in obstetrics, gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine. Fans of Dr. Thornton's books and accomplishments include Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.
Yvonne's new memoir Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy picks up her story where The Ditchdigger's Daughter ended with the passing of Yvonne’s father, and the start of Yvonne’s career as an assistant professor at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. With her father’s dreams and her mother's encouragement fueling her career aspirations, Dr. Thornton inspired the family legacy to live on in her own son and daughter as they entered the fields of neurosurgery and reconstructive surgery.
Dr. Yvonne Thornton is a gifted storyteller and a wonderful role model for women of all cultures and colors. Dr. Thornton shares a message that you can reach for your dreams no matter how lofty they might seem. She managed to overcome the odds and break down the roadblocks that got in her way to attain professional heights and personal happiness. Dr. Thornton (aka Cookie) credits her parents, Donald Thornton and Itasker Thornton for inspiring her and all the Thornton sisters to strive for success.
"I couldn't ask for a better life for myself than this. And I wouldn't be living it if not for Daddy's faith in me, and in all my sisters." - Dr. Yvonne Thornton
Below is an excerpt from Something to Prove by Dr. Yvonne Thornton.
That first day at Cornell, I walked up to the reception desk in the Obstetrics and Gynecology department and introduced myself to one of the secretaries. “Hello, I’m Dr. Thornton. I have a meeting with Dr. Druzin.” I explained that I was the new staff doctor in maternal-fetal medicine and could see her do a double-take before she told me to have a seat and wait. Conversations around us stopped. Several other people walking by perked up as I announced myself. They weren’t rude but it was clear I’d caught everyone by surprise. It didn’t take much analysis to figure out why.
I was the only black person in sight.
This was 1982, when a woman obstetrician was still a rarity; a black woman obstetrician was even more unusual. A black woman with a subspecialty in maternal-fetal medicine was unique indeed. But the vibe I was getting had less to do with being a relatively exotic addition than with not belonging.
I felt uncomfortable, but I’d spent my younger years on stage with my sisters and mother. The Thornton Sisters played every weekend—that was how my parents were able to scrape together the money to put us all through college. I’d learned how to put on a happy face for the audience no matter what I was feeling inside, and that’s what I did as I awaited Dr. Druzin.
He came out a few minutes later. I didn’t know it then, but I learned later that Dr. Maurice Druzin was originally from South Africa, where apartheid was still very much the law of the land. I would guess, from the way he greeted me, that his assumptions about black people had been molded in his home country. He was about five-foot-four and I towered over him by several inches. That probably didn’t endear me to him, either.
Over lunch, he said that, at Cornell, even though I was a faculty member, I’d have to have a private practice, too, like any regular obstetrician.
“We’re academics,” I said, my expectations shaped by my years in medical school at Columbia and later, in the Navy. “We’re perinatal specialists. We don’t see private patients; we are consultants and do research.”
“Not here,” he replied. He told me that the salary I’d been offered in the letter from Cornell was only partly based on my duties as director of clinical services and a faculty member. I’d have to earn fully two-thirds of my pay by attracting private patients to the faculty practice that I was expected to establish within the hospital. In other words, two-thirds of what I believed was my salary was actually an advance against a share of the profits that my private practice was expected to bring to New York Hospital–Cornell Medical Center.
“If you don’t carry your own weight, we’re going to ask you to leave,” he announced, matter-of-factly.
Just as I was reeling from the thought of having to establish a private practice—exactly what I’d taken several extra years of postdoctoral training to avoid doing—he added one last bit of information.
He could not make space for me in the department’s offices, he said.
“We’ll give you an office in the sub-basement, near the clinic.”
Maybe they really had run out of space on the first floor, where the rest of the Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB-GYN) Department faculty had offices. Maybe the sub-basement really was the only other place they could put me. I couldn’t help wondering though, if he would have made certain there was room above ground if I’d been a different color.
I tried to put that out of my mind and instead, focus on learning how to establish a private practice. I’d gone from medical school to a residency at Roosevelt Hospital to a postdoctoral fellow¬ship and then into the military, always with academia rather than the business side of medicine in my sights. So now, I had to take a two-day crash course on how to set up a private practice to fill in the blanks of my knowledge about attracting paying patients. And I put on my best “show face” when I came to work.
About the Author
Something to Prove: A Daughter’s Journey to Fulfill a Father’s Legacy
The Ditchdigger's Daughter: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story
Inside Information for Women
- Amazon.com eBook
BOOKALICIOUS BOOK GRAB GIVEAWAY
I have a copy of Something to Prove to give to one lucky Bookalicious reader. To enter the giveaway enter a comment below. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the U.S.A.
Yummy Rules and Regulations
You must be a Yummy Mummy Club member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until Monday, February 28, 2011. Contest open to Canadian and United States residents. Winners will be picked using www.random.org.
Wanda Lynne Young
I was watching the Cityline Valentine's Day Special just a few days ago where Queen Yummy Mummy Club Erica Ehm was one of their special guests. Recently Yummy Mummy Club published the results from our sex survey and the answers basically indicate that we should plan and prepare for our intimate moments if we want to get some.
The show's host Tracey, the other guests and the audience members were awestruck by a funny thing that Erica said (btw, she doesn't think she's funny but she actually has a witty dry sense of humour). When asked for tips on how to keep the spark in a relationship Erica recommended what she calls "married porn". I know what everyone was thinking (insert gasps here!) but actually Erica was referring to one's mate making gestures or doing chores to get their significant other in the mood. Ah, now we're talking right?
As tribute to all you marrieds, and long-term coupledoms out there I have a message to share from an author who has been there in a dreamed about her husband's funeral, struggled to save her marriage and lived to tell about it sort of way. This eloquent author, Alisa Bowman, has written a marriage memoir, Project: Happily Ever After, where she reveals her own marriage troubles and triumphs and offers some really good tips and tricks for the rest of us. We could all use a little reminder to keep romance in all the other days before and after Valentine's Day. Here's another tip (and note to self), print Alisa's message out, dust off the fridge and stick it there in plain sight. Enjoy!
A Valentine’s Message from Author Alisa Bowma
If your marriage is anything like mine, Valentine’s Day probably changed dramatically once kids entered the picture. That’s when that nice dinner out was replaced with you spending hours addressing dozens of silly cards and creating treat bags for your kid to hand out in school. It was probably around that time that you mumbled something about Valentine’s being a dumb holiday that was concocted by capitalists to entice innocent parents like you to part with your hard earned cash. Or maybe that’s just me. At any rate, I’d like to help you put the romance back in Valentine’s Day. This Valentine’s Day, consider making this a holiday that is just as much about your spouse as it is about your kids. Here are a few ways to do so.
Exchange love letters. Often, after years of marriage, we get focused on the negative and we tend to tell our spouse all about what’s wrong with him rather than what’s right. If things get really bad, we trick ourselves into believing that we married the wrong person and that we never fell in love in the first place. But unless you married for money, you fell in love. Rediscover why. Make your love letter a list of simple reasons you love your spouse—ranging from “you kill all of the bugs” to “you fix what’s broken.” Exchange these letters once a year on Valentine’s Day.
Renew your vows. Do you remember your original wedding vows? Most people can’t. More important, the vast majority of traditional vows fail to guide couples toward a happy marriage. They are usually a list of feelings rather than a list of actions. I encourage you to create a list of actions and promises that you both feel are important in your marriage. It might include “When I am angry, I will tell you rather than making you guess” and “I will never withhold sex in order to get back at you for leaving your socks on the floor.” Read them and recommit to them each year on Valentine’s Day.
Create a Romance Instruction Manual. Is your spouse a romance doofus? This, thankfully, is not a terminal issue. You can do something about it. We are not born with a romance instinct. He just needs you to teach him what to do. Think of romance as all of the big and small ways he makes you feel adored. Create a list of possibilities and give him this list so he can look at it from time to time for inspiration. Here are some ideas for each of those categories:
Small Romantic Gestures
Whistle when I dress up.
Tell me I’m beautiful.
Marvel at my mothering abilities.
Send me a naughty text.
Help me with my coat.
Ask me about my day.
Rub my shoulders.
Bring me a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
Cut flowers from the yard and put them in a vase.
Cook my favorite meal.
Clean the bathroom.
Pick up the kid’s toys or straighten their bedrooms.
Let me sleep in.
Take the kids for the day.
Big Romantic Gestures
Plan a vacation—just for us.
Eat at the nicest restaurant in town.
Send me flowers on a day that is not my birthday, anniversary or a holiday—just because.
Share a bottle of Opus One.
About the Author
BOOKALICIOUS BOOK GRAB GIVEAWAY
I have signed copies of "Project: Happily Ever After" to give to three lucky Bookalicious reader. To enter the giveaway answers the question, "How do you celebrate your mate?"
Yummy Rules and Regulations
You must be a Yummy Mummy Club member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until Friday, February 18, 2011. Contest open to Canadian residents only. Winners will be picked using www.random.org.
Wanda Lynne Young
LinkedIn: Wanda Lynne Young
Facebook: Wanda Lynne Young
The Bone Cage is the first novel from Saskatchewan native Angie Abdou. The former competitive speed swimmer shares a compelling story of two elite athletes, a swimmer and a wrestler, training for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The critically acclaimed novel was selected as one of the CBC Books Top Ten Sports Books in 2010 and now it's a Canada Reads contender after earning a position on the Canada Reads top five books from the past decade. After reading the novel I can see how it scored it's spot. A few hours after reading her book I sent Angie my questions and she answered them from her smartphone while waiting in the Calgary airport en route to Toronto. What a sport!
Angie Abdou, author of The Bone Cage
Photo credit: Ryan Couldrey/CBC Canada Reads
Q & A with Angie Abdou
1. You have a personal history with competitive sport and very similar to one of the Olympic athletes in your novel The Bone Cage. What do you feel would be more exciting, earning a gold medal in an Olympic sport or receiving a Noble Prize in Literature?
In the moment - winning an Olympic medal. Lasting impact - Nobel Prize in Literature. The dream of being a great writer can stay with you right to the death bed. The dream of being a great athlete - that one you have to let go of at some point, and that's tough, even if you have achieved the ultimate goal of Olympic gold.
2. Digger the wrestler says, “Athletes are experts in mind control.” If this is true for athletes, then what’s the trick for disciplined writers? If you get writer’s block how do snap out of it?
I apply the same discipline of the athletic life to my writing life. An athlete doesn't say "I'm not really feeling the muse today. I don't think I'll go to practice." So I don't give myself that option when I'm supposed to show up at the page. Just like Sadie has bad days in the pool, I have bad days at the computer - like Sadie, I push through.
3. This is Canada Reads 10th Anniversary. Would you recommend any books from the top 40 Canada Reads "best books from the past decade" list?
I'm on my hand-held at the airport so I don't have the list in front of me, but anyone who hasn't read he biggies should do so immediately: The Book of Negroes, Three Day Road, Life of Pi, Unless...
4. Sadie is a speed swimmer and a bookworm. How closely does Sadie resemble Angie as an author surrogate?
I like an author who said of his book "All of the characters are me and none of the characters are me." The main traits I share with Sadie are curly hair and a love of my grandmother. Yes, we both love books but when I was her age I was teaching Medieval Literature at the University of Western Ontario - so my interest in books was more intense than hers. Similarily, although I love swimming, it was never anywhere near as big a part of my life as it is of hers. Also, she's more solitary than I am. I would say she's more driven too (but I think people might laugh at me if I say that just now).
5. As far as an athlete’s future is concerned, you reference Peter Pan and the need for the athlete to grow up once their Olympic expiry date has worn off. What kind of feedback have you received from the amateur and professional athletes who have read your novel?
So far, every athlete who has talked to me about the book has told me that I nailed it. That's a relief. This weekend a cbc show in Alberta is interviewing 3 Olympians about The Bone Cage. I'll hold my breath through that. No matter what, it'll be an interesting discussion.
6. Can you share the meaning of the title “The Bone Cage” for those of us who may not be familiar with this Beowulf reference?
The bone cage means the body. I wanted readers to think about the way we are defined by our bodies and our bodies' limitations, how really body and identity are inseparable.
7. Your brother gave you insights into Digger’s quest for gold as an Olympic wrestler. "The Bone Cage" characters are so vivid and real. Did you have an Eva, a Fly, a Ben or a Lucinda in your life?
Eva is like my Grandma. She died while I was working on this book and snuck her way into the story. Other characters are a collage and a mix of real people and my imagination and whatever role I needed them to fill in the narrative. I don't know where Lucinda came from, though - she's not like anyone I know (but I needed her).
8. Multiple medal winning Olympic Summer and Winter Games athlete Clara Hughes recently revealed her battle with depression. Do you feel mental illness tends to be downplayed or overlooked during an athlete’s training since so much is riding on their performance?
I was sad to read that news about Clara Hughes. I hadn't heard that before now. And she is such a success story. It's much like Mark Tewksbury (another huge success story) saying the Olympics leaves its athletes broken souls. There are psychologicalists involved in sports, of course, but they are so focussed on that moment of performance. We could pay a lot more attention to post-Olympic depression and helping athletes transition.
9. I'm eager to read your new novel "The Canterbury Trail". Can you tell us the background to the story?
The Canterbury Trail is a take-off of The Canterbury Tales where the pilgrimage becomes a back-country ski trek. It's both comic and tragic. It's about the environment and about people's connection to place. I'd like to think it does for the Canadian mountains what Warren's Cool Water does for the Canadian prairies.
10. Former NHL star enforcer Georges Laraque is defending "The Bone Cage" for the Canada Reads win. Do you think both your competitive natures will give your book the edge to take the title?
I'm just a spectator this time, but I sure love watching Georges gear up for competition. He's good.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abdou graduated from the University of Calgary with a PhD in English literature, and currently teaches at the College of the Rockies in British Columbia.
The Canada Reads debates will be hosted by Jian Ghomeshi at the CBC's Canadian Broadcast Centre in Toronto on February 7, 8, and 9, airing at 11 a.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. in Newfoundland).
Check out the Canada Reads updates on the CBC website. You can attend the debates taped in front of a live audience, follow the debates on CBC Radio One or watch the live stream and chat. Find Canada Reads on Facebook and Follow Canada Reads on Twitter.
Wanda Lynne Young