Writers Inspiring Change feature author: Lois Gerber
IWIC: Tell us about yourself.
Lois: I’m a registered nurse specializing in community health. I believe in the spirit of community health nursing—its focus on wellness, relationships, families, and communities. My Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Pittsburgh and Master in Public Health degree and Specialist in Aging certificate from the University of Michigan have opened many professional doors. In Ohio and Michigan, I worked as a staff nurse and care coordinator in home health agencies, public health departments, and an Area Agency on Aging. Along with raising two children, I taught nursing students at the university level for twenty four years in the Detroit metropolitan area. For eleven years, through my geriatric care management service, I’ve counseled families dealing with elder care issues, developed care plans for their frail members, and monitored their living situations. I’ve been a volunteer at the Chiles Academy, a high school in Florida for pregnant and parenting teens. Presently, I advocate for foster children through the state’s Guardian Ad Litem program. For forty some years, I’ve served people of all ages, various religions and ethnicities, and different socio-economic levels. I enjoy the outdoors. Golf, swimming, and walking, are favorite activities of mine, but I like to read and listen to music, too. Family activities are important to me, either with my own family or those of friends. I write clinical articles and stories of patients’ challenges in overcoming health and psychosocial problems and have over 40 articles and stories published in nursing journals and literary magazines, and three books on Amazon, all short story collections that reflect my nursing experiences. Besides Nadia: Poland, I have published another novel through Taylor and Seale Publishing, LLC. Runaway Girl: A Nurse’s Story is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1920s. It’s a story of a teen aged girl who runs away from home to enter a hospital’s nurses training program under false pretenses. Presently, I’m working on a sequel to Nadia: Poland. This book, Nadia: America, follows the life of the protagonist once she and her husband emigrate to Detroit after the war. Publication of Nadia: America is planned for late fall, 2017 or early 2018.
IWIC: What prompted you to write? Lois: As a child, I loved to read and write and was especially inspired by Helen Wells’ Cherry Ames book series on nurses practicing in the various nursing specialties. Pearl Buck and her focus on culture and family dynamics was another of my favorite authors. Being a teacher and community health nurse, I write to inspire people to look beyond themselves to their families and larger community in which they live. I’ve seen firsthand the power and positive impact of neighbors working together to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them. I’m constantly humbled by the strength and dedication of individuals and families dealing with illness, mental health issues, poverty, cultural insensitivities, and discrimination. Through my patients and their families, I’ve learned about people’s values and beliefs, cultures, and efforts to survive in hostile environments. I realize people remember stories better than cold facts and hope my works resonate with readers in a deep and meaningful way. I’m a different and better person because of my patients, their families, the nurses I have worked with, the students I have taught, and the research I have done for my writing. I want to share what I’ve learned about peoples’ courage and compassion in dealing with health, societal, and relationship challenges with others.
IWIC: Tell us about Nadia, the book. Lois: Nadia:Poland is set in Warsaw during WWII. It’s a coming of age story of a teen aged girl growing up in the outskirts of Warsaw during the Nazi occupation and the subsequent Russian invasion. Nadia’s parents run a grocery store and hide Jewish children in their attic until they can be transported to a safe place. Her father also engraves false identification papers to protect Jewish families from internment. Nadia eventually joins the resistance and has many experiences as a runner delivering coded messages between the Underground groups. She befriends Sonya, her Jewish classmate, and Yogo, a Gypsy girl she finds in a tree in her back yard. She falls in love with Marcus, a Jewish boy her parents have hidden in their attic. Thinking Marcus is dead, she marries Henryk, a Catholic and resistance worker like herself. The couple eventually emigrates to Detroit. Three patients I worked with in Detroit, ones I will always remember, inspired me to write this historical novel, “Nadia: Poland”. Each grew up in Poland during the war and was affected by it in different ways. I’ve woven the lives of these women into a fictionalized character, Nadia, the book’s protagonist. The novel is meant to honor all those whose lives were affected by the Holocaust and be a testament to their courage.
IWIC: What do readers like about your writing? Lois: Readers like the human element that is explored in my books, the focus on the psychological aspects of the character’s lives, and their ability to overcome adverse circumstances. My works are clearly written, easy to read, and include interesting characters. Comments specific to Nadia: Poland have been positive. A common reader response is that the book offers a different view of the Holocaust, one that takes place outside the ghetto and shows that the devastation of the war affects everyone. One reader wrote the following review for the book’s back cover. “Lois Gerber’s novel, Nadia, is a sensitive and heartwarming story of love, friendship, and courage set in Poland. The story begins just before the Nazi occupation and centers on Nadia and her family and friends. This Holocaust story is unique as it’s told from the perspective of a Catholic girl. It shows readers how the Nazi both devastated Jews and caused extreme hardships on the entire population. Nadia is a survivor, and despite losing almost everything, even her Jewish lover, is willing to start over again by emigrating to America.”
IWIC: Is there a message integrated into your books? Lois: Several spiritual themes are mentioned briefly and then illustrated throughout the book—that we are all connected one to another, that all religions have the same basic tenets, that people bear a personal responsibility to fight for justice in their own way, and that the chaos and discord of war has long term and devastating effects on everyone, whether actively fighting or not. My five books all relate to people managing difficult circumstances and are meant to encourage readers to look beneath the surface to the deeper part of human nature. All of my books show the challenges and triumphs of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The two novels are specific coming of age stories of adolescents overcoming formidable odds to become productive and compassionate adults. I write to encourage readers to explore and resolve their prejudices and negative stereotypes, to take personal responsibility in finding ways to resolve difficult situations, to work for justice and support others in similar endeavors, and to show respect and kindness to one another. Hopefully, readers will realize that some of the world’s problems today are similar to those in Europe seventy years ago.