By RW Anton & Jhon Sánchez
Sandwiched in between Hurricane Harvey and the Coronavirus pandemic, one woman continues to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. She is the boss of Boss Lady Press and my sister, Darshell McAlpine. My mentor, Jhon Sánchez, and I read her book, Leaving With My Marbles, and wanted to ask her a few questions about perseverance and strength in times of uncertainty and upheaval. Here is what she had to say:
Pressenza: You formed your own publishing company and released this book yourself. How was that experience, what were some of the challenges and rewards? Is there a story behind the name?
D.M.: My book was the 2nd one I’d published. The first one was called The Skin I’m In, and this book was the reason I started Boss Lady Press. The Skin I’m In had a publisher who backed out a few weeks before the book was due to launch. The author was a friend of mine, and I was determined to help him meet his deadline, so I worked hard to learn the business and produce an amazing product for him. The most difficult part of starting any business is probably resources and that was a challenge for me as well. I have had to scrounge up what I can and figure it out as I go, but we’ve published six books and have four in the pipeline in just under two years, so I guess we’re doing okay. I’ve been in management for years, and my staff referred to me as Boss Lady. That’s where the company name comes from.
Pressenza: In your book, you bring up many excuses that people use to continue in abusive relationships. Is the pandemic another excuse? What’s your message to those women that feel trapped right now under these circumstances?
D.M.: I hesitate to say excuses as the reasons people have for allowing themselves to be abused are highly complex. I would speculate that being sequestered in a closed space with a violent person for an extended period of time in any circumstance, including a pandemic, could generate a perfect storm of scenarios to trigger an individual’s violence. Factually, domestic violence cases have increased during the pandemic, and resources available to victims have diminished. I don’t know if I’m qualified to make recommendations, but partnering with an organization that specializes in helping victims of abuse would be a starting point.
Pressenza: You have gone through a healing process. The actual crisis may cause trauma to many families. What would be your piece of advice to manage those memories as a mother and as a father?
D.M.: I am an advocate for therapy and sought it out for myself and my children at one point. For me, addressing the trauma head-on was the best way to manage. I sought therapy, but I also read as much as I could about what I was dealing with and how to get through it as well as how to help my children get through it. It still didn’t fix everything, but it gives me grounding.
Pressenza: Do you think that many women endured an abusive relationship because of the position that women are in society?
D.M.: I feel positive that the subjugation of any marginalized group is directly related to patriarchy and the idea that anything not male and white should be crushed whenever possible. The thought that women are weak and less than men is perpetuated in almost every culture and thus the catalyst for systematic abuse. However, abuse has to do with taking complete control and exercising dominance. It’s about power at its core. Women have been guilty of this too.
Pressenza: Is there anything in your life that prepared you for the hard decisions you had to make in order to protect your family and your sanity?
D.M.: I don’t believe I had experiences that fostered preparedness. I did have the strength of generations of strong women who had endured far worse than myself, the support of a loving family, and my God-given desire to live well. It took some time for me to synthesize these elements into viable tools and to gain the wisdom on how to use them, but eventually, it all came together. Make no mistake, there are things that are lost forever and residual pain, but such is life.
Pressenza: You write, “I believe positive communication to oneself and others has its place, but joy is a choice that supersedes what you say. I tell people we walk faith and not just talk faith. I choose joy.” Can you comment on that?
D.M.: Joy is an attitude, a disposition. It does not have its origins outside of a person but resides inside of the person who cultivates it. There are tons of information admonishing us to be positive and to will ourselves through situations, but we are foundationally human and subject to emotions that will take us out of the game at times. It is then that we have to draw on the joy that is less about what you say and more about what you do. I have the ability and right to choose a joyous disposition and to live that out, not just to talk about joy as a euphemism.
Pressenza: You talk in the book about religious people turning their back on you. What is your current outlook on religion and its constraints, and how have you reconciled your present life with your Christian upbringing?
D.M.: My faith is fluid. As I have new information and experiences, I am less inclined to believe that my beliefs are “always right.” I’m comfortable with my relationship with God and not knowing with complete certainty if God is. It is obvious to me that there will be no reconciliation of my current thoughts about religion or faith with my upbringing, and I am completely okay with that. My stance is only a problem for people who are convinced they are right, and they really have no business minding my faith anyway.
Pressenza: My favorite quote of the book is, “Most of us are addicts of some sort. Some of us are even addicted to balance.” Can you elaborate more on this?
D.M.: I used to say to my children when they were younger, “extremism in all its forms is dangerous.” It is a human tendency to be extreme or addicted, to attach ourselves vehemently to something or someone, and then to be beholden to that something or someone even if it kills us. Then there are those of us who like the middle and spend all our time trying not to feel strongly about anything, preaching the religion of balance and the need for a constant even keel, which then itself becomes an extreme.
Pressenza: You’re remarried? What was the process that allowed you to love and trust again?
D.M.: I talk in the book about identifying my three must-haves; my ability to love, my ability to forgive, and my ambition. I refused to allow the behavior of my ex to make me lose those elements of myself. Long before I knew my current husband, when I was still too raw from what I had experienced in an abysmal marriage, when life was still so difficult, I decided that I would love again. Once the decision was made, I had to do the self-work that would help me to forgive and to love without fear. Not simple but also not impossible.
Pressenza: You have published other books through your imprint. Are you planning to release more of your own stories? What new titles are on the horizon that we should look for?
D.M.: I’m working on a novel which is far more difficult than I imagined. I hope to have it completed in 2021. I am also finalizing two short stories that should be available in August 2020. I started ghostwriting and recently finished two books though they were not published by Boss Lady Press. Finally, as part of the I Am A Black Woman brand, and in conjunction with Dr. Carolyn Stephens, we are publishing I Am A Black Man: Ascension of the Kings in September 2020 along with a documentary with the same title. We’ve also been asked to publish an I Am A Black Woman anthology in the United Kingdom. We were scheduled to be in the U.K. in October 2020 to launch this project, but it has been moved to 2021 due to COVID-19.
Darshell McAlpine has been fascinated with words and writing since she learned to read. She is an accomplished writer and storyteller, depending on who you ask. Her love of reading good books grew into a love of writing them. When a friend was three weeks from publishing his book and the publisher backed out, Boss Lady Press was born.
Darshell has no literary awards to brag about, but according to her daughter, a fine writer in her own right, Darshell is one of the greatest wordsmiths to put pen to paper. She paused from an insane schedule long enough to finish her own manuscript: Leaving with My Marbles: Finding the Courage to Walk Away Intact. You can find Darshell curled up with a good book, wearing a ratty t-shirt and fluffy socks somewhere in Texas.
RW Anton is a singer/songwriter working out of New York City. He studied vocal music at the Cleveland School of the Arts and Baldwin-Wallace college and created a youtube series that has garnered him over 5 million views on the platform. He is currently perfecting his writing craft and looking forward to telling stories, in fiction and non-fiction, that inspire readers to approach life with maximum passion.
Jhon Sánchez: A Colombian born, Mr. Sánchez, arrived in NYC seeking political asylum where he is now a lawyer. His short stories are available in Midway Journal, The Meadow, Newfound, Fiction on the Web, among others. In February, Teleport published his short story ‘Handy.’ The DeDramafi, was published on The Write Launch, and Storylandia will reprint it in issue 36. He was awarded the Horned Dorset Colony for 2018 and the Byrdcliffe Artist Residence Program for 2019. In 2021, New Lit Salon Press will publish his collection Enjoy Pleasurable Death and Other Stories that Will Kill You. For updates, please visit the Facebook page @WriterJhon