Local author writes of abuse and God’s deliverance
By MICHAEL BROOKS / Special to the Reporter
ALABASTER – Rita Lee said it was painful to relive her childhood abuse, but she felt compelled to share her experiences to benefit others.
Lee recently published her autobiography entitled “Every Sparrow That Falls—A Memoir by Rita Lee.”
In response to a question about the book being graphic, Lee said life can be ugly.
“Many people face circumstances that are raw and hurtful and embarrassing,” she said. “So much of this kind of thing is occurring right now all over the world. I think a better descriptor for my book is ‘honest.’”
Lee said her book demanded the expenditure of many years and much self-reflection.
“I actually worked on this story for 20 years,” she said. “A counselor told me I had a right to the depression I faced at the time, and he encouraged me to begin a journal that I might publish, or at the least, pass on to my children.”
Lee said at one point she grew weary with the project, and thought about throwing the journal in the fireplace. Her son stopped her.
“My son, James, lost a leg in Iraq,” she said. “He spent a year recuperating at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Bethesda, and he’s the bravest man I know. What he went through made my task seem so small. He told me this story belonged to my children and grandchildren. He made me promise not to stop, so I began to work again with new dedication.”
Lee, a North Carolina native, has lived in Shelby County for five years. She studied creative writing in a number of colleges–necessary since she was an Army wife on the move–before finishing her B.A. degree at the University of Arizona. Currently she’s librarian at the Parnell Memorial Library in Montevallo.
Lee talks honestly about both physical and emotional abuse she endured as a child, and the attempted sexual attacks after she was sent to live with these relatives.
Lee said she struggled with the presence of God while living in abusive homes.
She remembers a man named Mr. Hope, a layman at the local Church of God, who drove a bus and picked up the kids in the neighborhood took them to church.
“I learned there were some good men in the world, and God cared about me by sending Mr. Hope to teach us,” she said.
Lee said another milestone was sharing her faith with her dad, an alcoholic who had abused her mother.
“I often talked with my dad in later years, but he seemed not to listen until he was dying,” she said. “My dad thought he’d done so many terrible things that God wouldn’t forgive him. But he committed his life to the Lord in the hospital and I sang ‘Amazing Grace’ at his bedside.”
In addition to the testimony of what she faced and her growing realization about God’s care, Lee said she hopes the book will inspire other caring adults to be watchful and to intervene.
Lee said she was helped greatly in her project by her husband and editor, Jim, who published “Broken Roads to Grace” in 2011, a collection of 48 short stories of God’s presence in life’s difficulties.
Copies of “Every Sparrow That Falls” are available at the Parnell Memorial Library and from the website is everysparrowthatfalls.com. Lee’s home church, Siluria Baptist in Alabaster, will sponsor a book-signing following morning worship on Feb. 18.
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