Ember Manos-Belle’s A PAUSE IN THE WESTERN RYTHM: The Cougar and the Sheik is a work of creative non-fiction. The writing is to the point. Ember hits the nail on the head with her language in this memoir, just like her other books. A PAUSE IN THE WESTERN RYTHM is extremely articulate, grittily realistic in its portrayal of how deeply hurt and misunderstanding manifest in mental health crises with family, friends, and loved ones. More precisely, how personal happiness can take a back seat to family squabbles, taboo, and bitterness.

Her novel is a memoir that cuts to the very root of righteousness while engaging in deep self-appraisal of the protagonist’s own happiness.

In the wake of third-wave feminism, contestations of the modern institution of marriage, and so many other intersections of living with a mismanaged mental health disorder, the protagonist, Grace, makes visible the impact of bipolar disorder, embattled cultural discord, yearning for greater independence in lieu of masculinity’s power to subsume its subordinate and the object of Sharif’s ‘love’.

The author makes it abundantly clear that the rocky and intense relationship between Grace and Sharif is disjointed, and privileges one side of the binary. Despite the advice from family, friends, her mother, and father, Grace ultimately succumbs to what reads like a mournful, regretful, and dark outcome. The reader has the opportunity to only hear Grace’s innermost thoughts from the vantage point of the narrator, but through journal entries, and realistic dialogue which not only serves to enliven the plot make truly capture the attention of the reader as the rising action of the book climbs ever higher.

Manos-Belle is one of the most talented modern chick literature authors I’ve ever read.

I’ve read a lot of chick literature in my many years surveying courses and the book stores for the genre. What this author does differently is her defiance, I would even hazard to say her radical departure from the colorless and trite long-standing infusion of “PC” language into the genre. Unless it is a contestation of a masculine image, these Chick Lit books are usually rife with visibly politically correctness and are monolithic in their sync with strictly progressive leanings.

When it comes to images of modern cultural norms, Grace is not afraid to insert her own thoughts and feelings and frame them in the trauma and grief she has endured as a vulnerable woman in a domineering Arabic “courtship”. Grace’s biases and her own misgivings when it comes to how she understands the vast undercurrents and etiology of her own judgments come front and center in this Ember Manos-Belle page-turner!

This is a must-read. Get your copy today!

J. Peters

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia. "I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others." "In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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