By Cameron Nadel
On March 5, Eisner Award Winner and decorative author Sheena Howard spoke to a Rider audience about her upcoming fiction novel “Nina’s Whisper,” a domestic suspense story about a single mother struggling to battle an abusive relationship at the hands of another woman.
Being a survivor of domestic abuse, Howard wanted to write a novel that brings both awareness to same-sex abuse and experiences that are underrepresented in society today.
“When I was writing the book, I wanted people to take away the dynamics of domestic abuse. We tend to think about abuse as physical, but even before you get to the physical part there are a lot of different forms of domestic abuse that I don’t think people realize,” Howard said.
People normally think that abuse does not stem from same-sex relationships because it is not discussed as much, according to Howard.
“In the book I make sure the main character looks back at the situation with hindsight as being 20/20. These small little incidents that don’t really mean anything, but eventually build up to the main character [Nina] realizing that she was in this awful relationship,” Howard stated.
Howard discussed that people who are in these abusive relationships have a hard time getting out of them because their feelings for that significant other are still there. They have been through so much with their partner, it does not matter if they are positive moments or bad moments, that connection and bond that was made is hard to break.
“Labels are a difficult thing to grapple with, sometimes a label can be freeing, and labels can also be restrictive,” according to Howard.
The character Nina, being a successful person and strong at will, is in denial of being a victim. Even through experiencing abuse at the hands of her partner, she still identifies herself as being someone who is not experiencing such trauma.
Howard adds a very interestingly dynamic twist within the book: the addition of Nina’s child Chasten.
“In the book the baby is really the catalyst for Nina to understand the negative things that are happening to her in the relationship,” Howard states.
Integrating a child within this abusive dynamic not only fleshes out Nina’s character, but also gives her another arc in the novel that does not feed on the disparaging relationship with her partner.
Not only did Howard write a novel telling this story, but she is also creating a graphic novel adaptation as well.
“When people read books they like to create the image of the characters for themselves, but I wanted to leave enough description about the characters so you can know who we’re talking about, and leave enough open, so people can create their own ideas of who the characters are,” according to Howard. The graphic novel adaptation will come out a year from now.
The main idea that Howard wants to give to readers is to look at the warning signs within a relationship that shows that it is becoming something ugly and it is never too late for someone’s voice to be heard.
“Just helping people to recognize that the range of domestic abuse, and warning signs so people can protect themselves, it was really something I was trying to hit home with this book,” Howard stated.
After the presentation sophomore film, TV and radio major Esteban Collado was asked his thoughts on Howard’s presentation
“I thought the presentation was really good, it was very insightful. I got to learn about a whole new aspect of domestic violence, and it breaks these heteronormative standards, and stereotypes of what domestic violence is,” Collado stated.
Professor Charles Ray of the the Legal Studies and Sports Management Department said this about Howard’s presentation.
“It was fantastic. I liked how insightful it was about something where students don’t have the opportunity or the platform to be able to hear not just from someone who is qualified to speak about the matter professionally, but also has gone through it,” Ray expressed. “Also, the idea that Dr. Howard is also a professor here, and really to me adds another layer of meaningfulness to it because it’s not like we have someone who’s coming here to speak about it, we have someone who’s actually here whose lived it, and has developed an expertise about it. So, I believe it was very valuable for our students.”
“Nina’s Whisper” hits bookshelves nationwide on Apr. 19, 2020.