L.Y. Marlow, founder of a domestic violence prevention organization, recently released a novel, “A Life Apart,” the story of a love affair between a white sailor and the sister of a black sailor who saved his life at Pearl Harbor.
“One of my best friends would share the story of how her father and mother met and fell in love when race relations were taboo,” Marlow told a crowd gathered recently at the Look Restaurant and Lounge in Northwest Washington. While writing the novel, Marlow said, she wondered “what would it look like for those two characters to fall in love and how that relationship would impart to us messages about love and forgiveness.”
Four years ago, Marlow released her first novel, “Color Me Butterfly,” a story inspired by her family’s multi-generational legacy of domestic violence. The abuse in her family spanned 60 years and four generations — including her grandmother, her mother, herself and her daughter.
“I was the third generation of women in my family to be trapped in the cycle of violence,” Marlow wrote. “Twenty two years later, my daughter became the fourth when her boyfriend tried to kill her twice and threatened the life of their daughter, Promise. His words, ‘I’m going to bury Promise’s body where nobody can find it.’ ”
After she realized that the abuse was affecting the fifth generation in her family, Marlow decided to do as much as she could to stop it. She quit her executive job at IBM and founded “Saving Promise,” a grass-roots movement aimed at raising national awareness about domestic violence.
Saving Promise works with domestic violence survivors, social change advocates and business leaders to help stem domestic violence. When she wrote “Color Me Butterfly,” Marlow said, she did not understand that her story could be used to put a face on domestic violence, inspire change and shed light on a story that is often kept secret.
Marlow, who grew up in Philadelphia and now lives in Ellicott City, Md., dedicated “A Life Apart” to her mother.
“Every letter, every word, every sentence, every prose, was breathed into this book because of her,” Marlow wrote. “In ‘Color Me Butterfly,’ I tell the story of four generations of mothers and daughters … that survived more than sixty years of domestic violence. It is through that story that you come to know my mother and why she is so very precious to me. Had it not been for her, I would never had the courage to do what I love to do.”
A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that:
• “Intimate Partner Violence,” which includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical or sexual violence, and emotional abuse, is a public health problem.
• “Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by a partner and report that the violence impacted them in some way that made them feel fearful or concerned for their safety.”
• In 2010, the CDC found that 1,336 people died from domestic violence. Of that number, 82 percent were female and 18 percent were male.
“Every one of us in this room has a story,” Marlow told the crowd at Look. “Domestic violence has become a national health crisis.”