64th Year, No. #47 3 Sections
Thursday, November 24, 2005
|Writer shares story of abuse
‘Just Keep Dancing’ plots journey to recovery
From staff reports
It took only a few words from one college counselor to positively change the direction of Susan Brauer's life. Now she is helping other women do the same.
The Palos Park resident is the author of the recently released “Just Keep Dancing”, an autobiography detailing Brauer’s relationship with and marriage to an abusive man. Brauer founded Dreamers Tapestry Inc., a publishing company that brings “women’s creative works and issues into public view for the enjoyment and benefit of all.”
The experiences from Brauer’s personal and academic life have fueled her ability and desire to give motivational presentations at area schools and women’s business and professional organizations. These successes began after heeding the advice of a counselor. “Take one class at a time, you can quit if you have to, but every class will put you on a higher [step] for a job,” Brauer, 57, recalled.
With only a high school diploma at the time, Brauer wanted to learn to type to acquire a secretarial job where she could earn more than minimum wage. She was 33 and raising six young sons with her second husband, Art. After more than two years at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, and 11 years at the University of Illinois–Chicago, Brauer had a master's degree in electrical engineering.
“College was not what people in my family did,” Brauer noted. “For me that was a different idea, a different future. Because of that woman who cracked open my mind, because of her one [phrase], it changed my life and, the lives of my children.”
Brauer was not allowed by her first husband to attend school or hold a job. Her husband was an alcoholic whose jealousy, possessiveness and violent physical and verbal abuse kept her at home.
Nearly three weeks after graduating from Queen of Peace High School in Burbank, Brauer married her childhood sweetheart, she said. The stories of his abuse, lies and infidelity, and her expectations - good and bad - are chronicled throughout the book.
Brauer's abusive husband nearly shot their children during an alcoholic spell and he became involved with another woman, which helped end the marriage. By 1974 she remarried, but her family still endured harassment and court battles from her ex.
Brauer's book ends with the death of her ex-husband after he was hit by a car in 1984, a relief, she recounted.
“I had survived, we all had, and in order to do that l had to stop being a victim and learn how to take control of my life,” reads an excerpt from the book. “I had to stop wailing about the things that I couldn’t change and do something about the things that I could. Because of [my ex-husband], I had been forced to view world differently, and in doing so, I had opened myself up to its beauty...No matter what life has to offer, it never gets the best of you, as long you just keep dancing."
A lover of science and math, Brauer never considered herself a writer; but she is a voracious reader, especially of Stephen King novels. She said she envied authors and was inspired to write her story for her sons and to encourage other women.
Brauer explained that as her sons grew older they did not know the complete story about her first marriage and she wanted them to understand both the good and bad lessons learned during that time.
“I wanted to answer questions, why I put up with that, and get women to understand how difficult is to get out, and women in [a similar situation] to judge less harshly so they can get out," Brauer explained. "I hope this message to other women is to find I the truth and that they can do the same thing.”
It took six years to complete the book, which was finished in June, because of Brauer's job as an electrical engineer with Motorola and the challenge of reliving her past.
“I thought it'd be easier [to write]. I’ve come to peace with all of it, but it was much
more difficult,” Brauer recalled. “I tried hard to be as true and honest [with a] real representation of the facts, but I had to re-envision. It was almost a catharsis.”
“I had to look at the whole story of my life. I realized it was not just domestic violence, but how women are raised to be victimized just the whole attitude, unseen forces predispose us. Women can fall prey and get caught. I wanted the book to say, ‘Don't be too quick to judge.’”
Empowering women and inspiring them is a motivating factor for Brauer. She wants to emulate that counselor, whose name she cannot recall, and throw inspirational “nuggets” that can help people change their lives.
“I’m not a how-to book lady.” Brauer laughed. “I like telling a story and let the reader take what they can. Writing [is something] I will do until the last day of my life, it’s an integral part of me now.
“I come from a family of women who live a long time, so I'll live 50 more years and write more. I have a vehicle to touch others in a positive way. It's a gift, even if touched one human being.”
Instead of saving money for cruises or going through the cycle of life and being a ‘good consumer,” Brauer said she and her husband are investing in DreamersTapestry.
Her husband is the only full-time employee and they are in control of publishing, distributing and publicizing. While distributors typically reap 30 to 40 percent of book sale profits, Brauer said she hopes someday to designate that money toward women’s groups or shelters.
The Brauers have been developing the business for more than five years with the intent of publishing more works by women and helping them redefine themselves.
“I realized there are a lot of women with good ideas on what to write about, but have a difficult time getting even a small amount of attention from established publishing companies,” Brauer noted. “I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be neat not just helping with a book, but giving a place for women and their literary works.’”
Brauer also gives speeches and presentations about her life and about the career opportunities for women in the math and science fields, particularly engineering. She wants women to open their minds to different opportunities that are not always emphasized for women, help them to redefine themselves and find their dreams.
“That’s where I’m at. Now life is incredible and how much the world has opened up for my life and future,” Brauer added. “For the first time in my life I can fly. I want to share with women that it’s okay on the other side.”