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Rich Hill woman recounts abusive childhood in book

Last Thursday, at the Richmond Hill branch of the Queens Library, she read passages from her book, "Only the Strong Can Survive," containing over 70 poems relating to the pain she suffered at the hands of her adoptive parents and a section detailing the abuse."They fed me when they wanted to feed me. I went to church with black eyes and swollen lips and I had to act as if nothing was going on. My adoptive father tried to break my kneecaps," she said.But when she was 19, she said, she was thrown out of the house because "I was old enough to get help from the government."Bennett got married later, "but the first time he hit me, it was over." She also became addicted to alcohol, she said, and lost custody of her children. "You take a drink, they take your kids," she said.A graduate from Summit High School in Forest Hills, she wrote her first poem when she was 25. "It's called 'Being Alive' and it expresses how you can be whomever you want to be," she said, adding it was her "formal release of anger. For some reason, God just kept my mind together. I had to pick my self-esteem back up."Her poems are particularly poignant, especially when read in light of the recent death of seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown. Only in this case the child survived, living to tell the tale of her ordeals."Relatives have apologized to me for not saying anything about the abuse when I was growing up," she said.Bennett, a resident of Richmond Hill, is now 32, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and is in the process of regaining custody of her two children, ages 10 and 2. She is working on a new book, "Seasons With and Without Love," about her life after 19, when she left her parental home.Currently promoting her book, Bennett is slated to feature on the radio station 98.7 KISS FM sometime this week."When I read at the Langston Hughes library in Corona, they were in awe," she continued. "My poems are short and to the point. I used to be depressed. I feel better when I talk about the abuse, after holding it in all these years. I used to be so shy. But when I just start speaking, I can just keep going. I'm guided by that shining light."To learn more about Aleja Bennett and her book visit

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