Many of you have heard me recommending “The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap” by Paulette Mahurin. I was so impressed by the book that as a writer I did not want to recommend it for anything else than the book and the quality of the writing itself.
It is time however to emphasise how the author uses all of her energy to promote the book on behalf of a worthy cause: All proceeds of the book go to the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center. I was so impressed by her selfless kindness that I named my first born Labradoodle Puppy after the main character, Mildred – a symbol of kindness and tolerance.
Why Santa Paula Needs SPARC
SPARC (Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is the first and only no-kill animal shelter in Ventura County. SPARC is a place where homeless animals are brought for humane care without risk of being killed due to lack of space, illness or injury. SPARC is actively saving lives by rehabilitating and re-homing animals, at the same time partnering with the community to educate on the importance of spay/neuter and vaccination programs. To truly deliver on our no-kill mission, SPARC relies on generous contributions from other passionate animal lovers and advocates.
Thank you for helping to make lives better!
If you would like to make a donation:
send check or money order payable to
705 E. Santa Barbara St.
Santa Paula, CA 93060
Paulette Mahurin’s eyes light up when she talks about the dogs. An animal advocate, the Ojai resident and her husband, Terry, have been rescuing Rottweilers for nearly three decades.
When her beloved rottie, Tazzie, died last year at age 15, she was heartbroken. In addition to losing her best friend, the dog had been her constant companion throughout Mahurin’s life-altering bout with Lyme disease.
Mahurin, 66, and a nurse practitioner of Ojai, suffered through debilitating consequences of the disease, including meningitis, partial paralysis and arthritis.
“It’s been a double-edged sword,” she said. “I went through hell, but I came through it so grateful to be alive.”
When she was feeling well enough to socialize, Mahurin decided to attend a writing class given by Ojai author and playwright Deb Norton. An assignment to write a 10-minute short story based on a vintage photograph was the inspiration for Mahurin’s first novel, “The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap.”
Set in 1895 Nevada, Mahurin likens it to a “female ‘Brokeback Mountain’ meets ‘The Crucible.’ ” While the story centers around its primary characters, Mildred and Edra, a lesbian couple who live on a ranch outside of town to avoid the prying eyes of the local gossips, it is not just about homophobia, but also racism, anti-Semitism and hypocrisy.
Each chapter starts with a quote from Oscar Wilde, whose news of conviction and imprisonment for homosexual activity reaches the small Nevada town and whips some of its residents into a frenzy of intolerance. Soon after, they hear about Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta address and the Dreyfus Affair in France, which causes a similar outcry.
“When I was writing the book, the book was writing itself,” Mahurin said. “The story came out and I fell in love with the characters as they started pouring out to me. Everybody has secrets; everybody has things that they would be uncomfortable sharing about themselves. Nobody likes to admit ‘I’m human.’ ”
During the six years it took to write the book, and while she was still recovering from Lyme disease, Mahurin spent many hours researching 1800s history, including the Pony Express, the Homestead Act, the geography, the weather — even the items available in the Sears and Roebuck catalog. More importantly, because of its message of tolerance and its relevance to today’s issues, “The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap” has received international acclaim, with people all across the United States and as far away as Romania, India, the Philippines, South Africa and Australia touting it as an important read.
“It was a spiritual journey for me,” Mahurin said. “We’re all walking, living miracles.”
In honor of the 15 years spent with her beloved companion Tazzie, as well as her desire to support no-kill animal shelters, proceeds from the sales of “The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap” benefit the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center.
The “Persecution of Mildred Dunlap” is available at The Best of VC Marketplace in Santa Paula, and on Amazon.
“The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap” uses two well-known scandals of 1895 to start off and move along the plot of our protagonists. It is an interesting and skilfully executed set-up, followed by an equally brilliant illustration of how the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde and the anti-Semitism shown in the Dreyfus Affair in France could have been received in a remote and isolated location such as a small town in Nevada.
Each chapter is accompanied by a quotation from Oscar Wilde’s work. I am not usually a fan of poetry and themes used as headings, but the author has chosen them appropriately and very well.
The description of the setting succeeds effortlessly with just enough detail to make it easy for us to imagine we are there with the heroes, but without overloading us with description that gets in the way of the plot. The portrayal of the times seems also very authentic and the dialogue is also very realistic and flows easily.
The way the characters interact with each other is simply brilliantly done and gives the book a lively feeling. The story is much more complex and involved than the beginning and the book title seemed to imply to me – which made this an unpredictable and compulsice reading experience.
The book is an illustration of hate, intolerance and gossip in a small community and is kind and politically correct in its message. At a time when Gay Marriage proposals are being voted on all over the world and homophobia comes back into the spotlight of media attention this story is reminiscent of many of our current arguments.
At first I found it unbelievable and off-putting that some of the characters would – at that time in history – have the understanding and tolerance as the author attributes to them. Then I realised that the same ancient prejudiced views that haunt our Mildred in the book are still around in 2012.
The book is a great piece of work on human nature and I will be recommending it to my friends.
5 out of 5