Professor and Sorority Publish Life-Changing Book

Naomi Gal and Alpha Sigma Alpha sisters signed copies of Free to Be—Stories of Hope and Survival at the Moravian Book Shop on April 16. Photo by Eddie Flaherty '12.

Naomi Gal, Comenius professor of literature and languages and the author of 16 books, knows the transformative power of writing for both writer and reader. Her newest book project, Free to BeStories of Hope and Survival, already has changed the lives of dozens of women, many of them Moravian College students.

Most of the book's stories were written by survivors of domestic abuse who found their voice, power, and a new life with the help of Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley. Professor Gal led the bimonthly writers' workshop from which the stories were drawn. "The women were very brave to share their stories," she said. "It was not easy for them, but gradually they came forward. Writing helps with the healing."

Encouraged by Turning Point counselor Marcia Felkay, who envisioned the writings as a book, Professor Gal called upon the Moravian chapter of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority to help complete the project by raising money, adding stories and poems, editing, and much more.

In the process, the students changed too. "Working with my ASA sisters, Naomi Gal, and the women of Turning Point has had a huge impact on my life and my experience at Moravian College," said Elizabeth Festa '09, a political science major who contributed two poems and helped edit the book. "I began to see that those close to me were affected greatly by domestic violence, and this project gave me a voice to express how I was feeling. Now, as I prepare to attend law school this fall, I feel confident that I will continue as an activist for women's rights."

"This project inspired me to go outside my comfort zone and challenge what is happening," said Elizabeth Festa '09.

Led by Kristina Crescente, former president of Alpha Sigma Alpha, the sisters held fundraising projects—storming dorms, donating proceeds of the annual haunted house, selling awareness bracelets and t-shirts—for the book and for Turning Point. Their performance of The Vagina Monologues raised more than $1,100 for Turning Point. Although the fundraisers were successful, additional money was needed to publish the book, so Alpha Sigma Alpha helped cover the remaining cost. "We felt so strongly about this book that we did not think twice about it," said Festa.

"I hope that the students' involvement with this project will prevent this from happening in their own lives," said Professor Gal. "We need to begin the education process much earlier." Through a Service Learning grant from the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium, Gal will develop educational materials to reach local children through Head Start. This fall, she also will teach a new course, "Free to Be—Coping with Domestic Violence" (ENG 390). Free to Be can be purchased on and from ASA members; all proceeds benefit Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley.