Author talks female empowerment

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Photo by Jacob Geiger.

On Tuesday afternoon, author Suzanne Palmieri advised women on how to break the metaphorical glass that limits them both personally and professionally.

Palmieri — author of the novels “The Witch of Little Italy” and “The Witch of Belladonna Bay” and a professor of sociology at Albertus Magnus College — spoke to an all-female audience of approximately 30 as part of a speaker series organized by the Yale Working Women’s Network. Using her own life as an example, she discussed ways  women can empower themselves in the workplace and beyond. She also read two passages from her novel, answered questions and signed books.

Palmieri explained that the “slightly sexist, patriarchal” society we live in forces women to act as though they are fearless and hide their weaknesses, and emphasized that a woman can improve her situation only after accepting the fact that she plays a role in the limitations that beset her life.

She said effective leadership and professional success must follow from inner strength and confidence, and encouraged women to use their powerful inner voices and do what fulfills them most. Women should find their own paths instead of following those set by others, she added.

“None of the leaders and trailblazers we most respect did things the way they were supposed to do them,” she said. “Even [Robert Frost’s] ‘road less traveled’ still had footprints, so give me a machete to hack down the rest of the forest.”

The author used her personal life story to illustrate her point about female empowerment, explaining the ways in which her own struggles have informed her perspective. She told the audience that her books are a sort of “fictional autobiography,” and emphasized the importance of pursuing fulfilling work. Her favorite line of poetry, written by Mary Oliver, is the question “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?,” she said.

Jennifer Mendelsohn, the programming co-chair for the Yale Working Women’s Network, said she thinks Palmieri was inspirational and funny, adding that the audience never seemed bored during the talk.

“Suzanne was fantastic, as expected,” said Jennifer Paskiewicz, the WWN’s other Programming Co-Chair.

Palmieri co-authored the novels “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Empire Girls” with Loretta Nyhan.

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