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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cleta Brooks Lee of Salem, Oregon
Salem resident Cleta Brooks Lee has suffered many tragedies in her 89 years. When Cleta was 14 her father had a nervous breakdown and was committed to an insane asylum. When she was 19 she was raped. At 24 she married the man she thought was the perfect husband, only to later find he was an adulterer and an alcoholic. After divorcing her husband, she learned that he had...
Published on October 30, 2002 by Andrew Parodi

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3.0 out of 5 stars Family Curiosity
Had to read it out of curiosity because the author is/was a second cousin. Basically a series of excerpts from her journal and letters to her imaginary aunt. Interesting from a family perspective but not particularly engaging.
Published 14 months ago by Thomas Selim


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cleta Brooks Lee of Salem, Oregon, October 30, 2002
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This review is from: Sing Above the Pain, Book 1 (Paperback)
Salem resident Cleta Brooks Lee has suffered many tragedies in her 89 years. When Cleta was 14 her father had a nervous breakdown and was committed to an insane asylum. When she was 19 she was raped. At 24 she married the man she thought was the perfect husband, only to later find he was an adulterer and an alcoholic. After divorcing her husband, she learned that he had sexually abused their dyslexic son. In retaliation for the abuse, Cleta's son later attempted to murder his own father.

Cleta didn't have a mother figure that would listen to her problems without judgment, so she invented one.

"Just as Anne Frank wrote to Kitty, I wrote to Aunt Sarah," Cleta says from her third-story apartment at the Jason Lee Manor Retirement Community. "Aunt Sarah became the compassionate mother figure I had always wished for."

Though Cleta began her diary during her teens, it was during the years after the breakdown of her marriage that she came to really depend upon it.

"Keeping a diary helped me tie together the lose ends of my suddenly fragmented life," Cleta says. "People didn't go to therapy in those days, and you couldn't talk to people about the kinds of problems I was facing. It was the era of Leave it to Beaver when everyone was trying to pretend their families were perfect. It's a good thing I had Aunt Sarah to talk to. She may have even saved my life."

In the 1990s, no longer fearful of society's judgment, Cleta decided to go public with her personal tragedies by publishing three books of memoir based on her diaries.

Sing Above the Pain, Book One, which spans from 1916 to the 1940s, depicts the challenges of life during the Great Depression. Sing Above the Pain, Book Two chronicles the breakdown of Cleta's marriage. The Unheard Cry depicts Cleta's attempts to cope with the betrayal of her husband. All three books incorporate a personal narrative with excerpts from Cleta's diary.

"Of all the books, The Unheard Cry was probably the most cathartic for me to write," Cleta says. "My son collaborated with me on that volume, even contributing a few essays on how he learned to forgive his father for the sexual abuse."
Cleta has since become something of an Aunt Sarah for other women struggling with difficult situations.

"I have facilitated journal workshops for the Women's Correctional Institution of the Oregon State Prison," Cleta says, "and I lead a journaling workshop at the Salem Borders every third Wednesday of the month, at 7 pm. It's very rewarding to be a mentor for other women who are facing similar challenges as I once faced."

"Women really need to learn to be there for one another," Cleta says. "There are some things only a woman can understand about another woman."

Ironically, what began as a diary kept in secret has now been recognized as a part of Oregon state history, and may soon be recognized as a part of world history.

"The Oregon Historical Society now stores several boxes of my handwritten manuscript diaries in their archives," Cleta says. "They say it's wonderful to have a hand-written account of a woman's life in Oregon spanning almost the entire 20th Century. They say that the hand-written diary is a dying art form. And The Guinness Book of World Records has contacted me. They are considering listing me in the category of Longest Kept Diary. I've been keeping a diary for over 70 years now."
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3.0 out of 5 stars Family Curiosity, May 10, 2013
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This review is from: Sing Above the Pain, Book 1 (Paperback)
Had to read it out of curiosity because the author is/was a second cousin. Basically a series of excerpts from her journal and letters to her imaginary aunt. Interesting from a family perspective but not particularly engaging.
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Sing Above the Pain, Book 1
Sing Above the Pain, Book 1 by Cleta Brooks Lee (Paperback - August 1, 1990)
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