PALMER -- The house that author Suzanne Strempek Shea shares with her husband, Springfield Republican columnist Tom Shea, and their two dogs was an object of curiosity and even wonder for her when she was growing up just a couple of miles away.
I recently was one of three judges for the 2005 Hemingway/PEN Literary Awards, which were presented along with the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Literary Awards April 10 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
The American literary scene during the final decades of the twentieth century was energized by the critical acclaim gained by a group of women writers who hailed from strong ethnic traditions and whose creative work probed the complex experiences of immigrants and their children caught between the ethnic and the dominant host cultures. Their female characters have often been placed in an unenviable position of double jeopardy since they not only represented a marginalized ethnic group, but also faced prejudice due to their gender. In constructing a female perspective, fiction writers and poets such as Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Louise Erdrich, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Julia Alvarez, and Lorna Dee Cervantes have forced many of their characters into a process of reinventing both their gender and ethnic consciousness. Unquestionably, the Polish American fiction of Suzanne Strempek Shea deserves to be included with that of the above-mentioned group. In her first three novels, Selling the Lite of Heaven (1994), Hoopi Shoopi Donna (1996), and Lily of the Valley (1999), Suzanne Strempek Shea chronicles the small town Polish American neighborhood found among the slightly dilapidated working-class settlements of New England.