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Author to read from her memoir at Sanibel Library

By Staff | Jan 6, 2016

A passion began when Judy Stern learned how to write in grade school and has continued throughout her life eventually leading to becoming a published author.

“I thought it was cool to keep a diary. (I’ve been) a serious journal writer my whole life,” she said.

With every passing year, Stern decided that maybe she did want to become a writer and began jotting down entire conversations. Her first book, a children’s book, “A Race to Change Penguin Land,” offered a strong environmental message.

After a divorce, Stern had to continue working, which led to becoming a fashion designer, gallery owner, shopkeeper and teacher. She said she earned a good living while slowly pecking away at her writing on the side.

“Five to 10 years ago I just quit everything and went home and said ‘It’s now or never,'” the 73-year-old said. “All of this stuff came pouring out of me and the journals came out.”

While she was a teacher at St. Thomas, Stern taught American Indian culture and art, which has been her life’s study. Her first book of the three-part series “Teachings From Mother Earth,” “Think Inside the Circle” was used in her classroom as a teaching topic.

According to the back cover of the book, “Judy’s mother-in-law is killed by a priest in a car accident during a visit to Fort Ridgely, where in 1862 Dakota Indians were jailed before being publicly hung in Manakto. Judy has a powerful dream. The deceased woman bears a mysterious Indian message. A homemaker and mother of four, Judy uproots the family for a two-year sojourn when her husband is accepted at UND in North Dakota, where they visit Indian schools. Her life changes radically. She purses a degree in American Indian studies and Applied Arts, leaves her church and abusive husband.”

The idea of her series, which has been turned into a memoir about her life, starting 30 years ago when she began answering one big question: what is the difference between the Euro-Western philosophy, with which she was raised, and the Native Americans’, whose land is her ancestors?

“Why didn’t they adopt science? Why do the Indians call it mother (earth),” she asked, adding that the question dealt with as much of her own heritage as the Indians. “This is a very intimate book.”

She said although the first book was 30 years coming, she’s glad it was not published until three years ago because the message of the book is extremely relevant due to the environment suffering.

“People don’t harbor the necessary will and attitude to do enough about it to make it healthy,” Stern said. “I try to wake up some people in areas they might not want to be woken up in.”

At 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8, Stern will read from “Think Inside the Circle,” at the Sanibel Public Library. She said once the reading is finished, she will open a question and answer period.

The second book in the series, “Everything has a Spirit: Was it the Hopi Corn Dance,” and the third book “Wisdom Isn’t Rocket Science” have also been published.

Stern said she has spent time creating a connection between her understanding of how the world works and how other people who do not see that way perceive things.

The Minnesota resident has spent the months of January and February on the island for the past 10 years.

“One of the best things that happened to me,” she said of finding Sanibel, “I started having some health symptoms that I discovered. I went to Florida and stayed with friends in three different places and the last place was Sanibel. This is the place to be.”

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.