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Working class girl becomes world class singer

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This year New York state celebrated 100 years since a pivotal moment in feminist history, when in 1917 women won the right to vote on the state level.

That momentous event took place three years before the 19th Amendment was ratified, ensuring their national voting rights.

According to a New York Times article, many gains were made after 50 years of marching, rallies, and fund-raising…and despite cranky antisuffragists who warned against a woman’s equal rights for fear that: ‘’political gossip would cause her to neglect the home, forget to mend our clothes and burn the biscuits.’’

While the glass ceiling of that time may have had thousands of little cracks in it – since 20,000 or so newly empowered women were enrolled in the country’s suffragette movement – it would take almost a century before the glass would only partially shatter.

A 2008 survey (Reuters) revealed that while 95 percent of American workers believed that women had made “important advances in the workplace over the last 10 years,” 86 percent felt that even though it was cracked, the glass ceiling had not yet been broken.

Tremendous strides have been made but many women say there’s more work to be done until they achieve across- the-board equal justice. Their anger and frustration has fueled a modern-day suffrage movement, reminiscent of the 1970s and 1920s.

A Bayside author and a senior who you’d think would have little interest in today’s feminist activism has written a new novel. Readers of all ages will find this 1970s feminist coming-of-age story, truly authentic and inspiring.

David Yale, 73, says he fully understands what today’s activists are fighting for, and claims that his new book “is an antidote to America’s current wave of dystopian fear, confusion, and hopelessne­ss.” But you’ll have to read it to fully understand why.

Set in a dreary neighborhood in blue-collar North Minneapolis, where girls’ dreams are dismissed and suppressed, “Becoming JiJi” centers around Jill Frisk, an unempowered, down in the dumps teen, who ultimately finds her voice – both literally and figuratively – and becomes a famous singer. At 18, Jill feels hopeless and depressed. She comes from a highly dysfunctional family and has to deal with an abusive father and shattered mother. Though she’s a smart high school graduate who reads advanced chemistry books as a hobby, her father says no to college.

“It’s a great story about ‘ordinary’ blue-collar Americans changing themselves from defeated cynics to high achievers,” says the author, who weighed in on dystopia in our society, as he sees it.

“The past year has seen a wave of fear and distrust sweep our country. Racism and hate speech have become rampant. Fake news is now common enough so we are no longer sure who to trust,” he points out.

“For many of us, government is a distant group of elites that does not respond to or care about our needs and wishes. And psychologists are reporting vastly increased levels of anxiety among their patients. The American dream seems to be dying.”

Jill’s attitude evolves as the newly empowered teen rises above her difficult situation and carves out a successful future for herself…with the support and inspiration of her beau, Joe Stern, the cute recreation director. He hires her to run a preschool group, then helps her form a teen council, which in turn, has an uplifting effect on their neighborhood. With his encouragement, a transformed Jill discovers she has a magical singing voice.

JiJi will surely raise your spirits and inspire you. “I originally wrote it with millennials in mind. But I found that seniors really like it, as well,” says Yale, who explains how JiJi would fit into today’s version of the empowered young woman:

“I think she’d be appreciated as a pioneer who was looking for a way to use her talents, was able to see opportunities and unafraid to take advantage of them, and was determined enough to turn a mentoring relationship into a romantic relationship with two equal partners,” he explains. “Despite her abusive father, she had a vision of what she wants her own relationship to be like, and she wasn’t afraid to put down her foot and tell Joe, ‘Too bad, so sad, not fair…Nuh-uh!’ when he did something she disliked.”

Yale’s empowered protagonist gets her first break when Joe, realizing she has an amazing voice, arranges to get her vocal lessons. But there are setbacks. When JiJi tries to get gigs singing in downtown clubs, she gets rebuffed. But she meets a famous jazz singer, who teaches her how to work with a band. And her biggest break happens when she meets Lisa, who represents performers. Lisa accepts JiJi as a client, gets her lots of gigs, press coverage, a recording contract; she guides her career and becomes a close friend.

Yale was born in Staten Island and raised in Brooklyn. He attended graduate school in Minnesota and later worked as a recreation director in North Minneapolis. From there he moved to San Francisco but got homesick and returned to New York, living in Sunnyside and Bayside.

The author says he likes to write about ordinary folks because “these are the women and men who make America great. We literally can’t live without their work. They are the people who drive our trucks and buses, grow our food, repair our cars, build our bridges, serve us at the restaurant, drill for our oil.”

He adds: “But they’re getting poorer and more desperate as the employment market squeezes them out of well-paying jobs. I want to be one of the people telling their stories. And they do have stories to tell. When you get to know them, they are actually quite extraordin­ary.”

Sharing his thoughts about today’s feminist movement, Yale says, “Women are not treated well or fairly in the workplace. They earn less than men. They are talked down to, their ideas are ignored or stolen, they are made fun of, groped, propositioned, or worse – while they are trying to work and earn a living. I know if that happened to me, I would be furious. Nobody should be treated that way, and that’s why I share women’s anger.

“As a country we lose bigtime if we don’t encourage and cultivate all of our talent, male or female.”

Yale is working on a sequel, titled “The Real Paul.” His book, “HomesPun Humor,” was a finalist in both the 2014 Indie Excellence® and USA Best Book Awards.

‘Becoming JiJi’ is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, in eBook or paperback formats.

Posted 12:00 am, December 30, 2017
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