Mental Health Awareness with Sara Troy and her guest Denise Beck-Clark, on air from July 26th
In Her Debut Literary Fiction, Psychotherapist-Turned-Novelist Examines How Wounded People Heal From Trauma With The Help Of Friends and Unique Treatment
Set in the 1970’s “me decade,” Thirty Years Hence, is the debut novel of retired psychotherapist Denise Beck-Clark. The story of two women’s developing friendship feels like the opening of a time capsule to when many disillusioned souls sought out quirky, experimental therapies led by gurus to “find themselves”. A confused, 20-ish aspiring writer meets a troubled Psychotherapist-Turned-Novelist and, with NYC as a backdrop, they bond over their mutual experiences of existential crisis. Unpredictable characters and plot twists are sure to interest anyone fascinated with the devil-may-care, anything goes culture of the era.
“Thirty Years Hence,” says the author, “is about people dealing with the pain and suffering caused by the war specifically, and the so-called Human Condition generally. That humans have consciousness and the capacity to think is both the good and the bad news. The point of view presented in the book ascribes to both Buddhism and Cognitive Therapy, which in a summary statement might be, ‘Find and be grateful for whatever is good in your life because as bad as it may seem, your life could always be worse.’ This is hopefully what readers of Thirty Years Hence will apply to their own lives if they have a need to.”
- How she takes a unique approach to examining the impact of the Holocaust on its survivors many decades after suffering great trauma
- How her practice of psychotherapy for three decades inspired — and prepared her for –the writing of this book
- How women can develop a friendship while coping with their own individual malaises
- Why white supremacists still pose a huge threat to our country – and why anti-Semitism is still a problem today. Can we cure society of hate?
- How psychotherapy can help one overcome, and heal from, identity-defining trauma
- Why the book is set in 1970s NYC – and what the “Me Generation” was really like.
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“That the 70’s were only thirty years after the Holocaust and World War Il is important in understanding its culture,” says Beck-Clark. “The hindsight of today, five decades later, allows us to see that in the 70’s many survivors of the Holocaust were in a state of suppression and reticence. They, and in turn their families, were acting “as if” they just got on with their lives the terrible memories and dreams would subside or even vanish. I think it’s fair to say that in the collective unconscious mind, the psychological aftermath of the Holocaust and the war was very much a reality, and the lives of many people, Jews in particular, were seriously undermined by having endured an unimaginable act of persecution. Perhaps my book puts that into perspective.”
ABOUT THE BOOK: A story of two women in NYC in 1973: Michelle Cooper, age 23, is despairing and without direction, having barely survived the turbulent household of her parents, and her own adolescent foray into sixties’ hippiedom. Forty-something Ida Birnbaum, a Queens, NY wife and mother, and survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp, 30 years later battles her own malaise during a serious and potentially damaging midlife crisis.
Like many folks during the so-called “Me Decade”, both Michelle and Ida indulge in hedonistic and self-destructive activities and then must deal with the consequences. They each turn for support to their evolving friendship and to characters such as Theo, an idealistic young immigrant who lives in an Upper West Side SRO hotel and works for a telephone prayer service run by Charles, another Holocaust survivor, and self-fashioned spiritual guru.
Central to the novel’s conflict and narrative is the mechanism by which Ida and Michelle cope with and attempt to overcome their pasts. Ida, as many survivors did in the 1970s, internalizes her trauma and memories of the Holocaust. She spins out of control one night and has a wild and destructive experience in the tawdry part of the city; the consequences of which cause her much grief. Michelle and Ida then turn to Charles, who has created an experiential program that helps victims of trauma to recover. The results of the program alter Michelle and Ida’s lives forever.
Both Michelle and Ida, Ida’s husband, and even Paul, a white supremacist who stalks Michelle after a one-night stand, seek psychological healing via another of Charles’ creations. The Rogen Treatment Program is a unique process wherein participants “experience” the Holocaust and, through a kind of aversion therapy, conquer their respective individual demons.
“Thirty Years Hence is a powerful and heart-rending story of survival, acceptance, and belonging. Beck-Clark does a great job of tackling weighty topics in a way that inspires introspection without detracting from the narrative flow. She also does extremely well in recreating the New York of the early 1970s, including all the sights, sounds, dreams, and despair. Given the exploration of trauma, it might not always be a comfortable read, but it is an important one.” — San Francisco Book Review
“Denise Beck-Clark’s Thirty Years Hence is an intriguing story where an experimental form of treatment has an unpredictable impact on characters suffering from a wide variety of human frailties. It’s a fascinating look at our common struggle to overcome our pasts, told with great
care.” — Russell Rowland, author of 56 Counties and Cold Country
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Since childhood, Denise Beck-clark has had the parallel interests of psychology and writing/literature. After spending her twenties writing and earning a living with menial jobs, she spent the next 30-some years as a psychotherapist and social worker, finding time to write whenever possible. Now retired and devoted to writing full-time, Ms. Beck-Clark hopes her writing will have the same positive impact on readers as her work did for patients as a clinician.
Her writing career began with the publication of several nonfiction articles. In 1999, her creative non-fiction book, Concurrent Sentences: A True Story of Murder, Love and Redemption, was published by New Horizon Press. A screenplay adaptation is in process.
She’s recently published flash fiction and essays online, along with a paperback poetry collection, The Zen of Forgetting. She wrote a blog for several years until 2015 and currently writes essays for Medium. Thirty Years Hence is her first published novel.
Beck-Clark started her career in psychotherapy as a social worker at Manhattan Psychiatric Center outpatient clinic, and as a psychotherapist at Flatlands Guidance Center in Brooklyn, in 1986. She had a private psychotherapy practice in Manhattan for 13 years while acting as a psychiatric social worker at Bronx Psychiatric Center inpatient wards until 1999. She then moved to the center’s outpatient clinic, from 1999 – 2011.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts form Columbia University, A Master of Sciences in social work from Columbia University, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Lindenwood University.
Beck-Clark lives with her adult special needs son in Yonkers, New York. For more information, please visit:
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