Testimony by Paula Martina

The blurb from the publisher…

In rural Virginia in 1960, history professor Gen Rider has secured tenure at Baines College, a private school for white women. A woman in a man’s field, she teaches “Negro” history, which has made her suspect with a powerful male colleague. Even while she’s celebrating her triumph, she’s also mourning the break-up of a long-distance relationship with another woman―a romance she has tightly guarded, even from her straight female mentor.

As the fall semester dawns, a male instructor at the college is arrested for having sex with a man in a park. Homosexual panic envelops the college town, launching a “Know Your Neighbor” reporting campaign. The police investigation directly threatens Gen’s friend Fenton, the gay theater director at Baines. But Gen finds herself vulnerable, too, when someone leaves mysterious “gifts” for her, including a suggestive pulp novel and a romantic card.

As Gen tentatively embarks on a new relationship, a neighbor reports she’s seen Gen kissing a woman, and hearings into her morality catch her in a McCarthy-like web. With her private life under the microscope, Gen faces an agonizing choice: Which does she value more, the career she’s scraped to build against the odds or her right to a private life?

My thoughts…

This story is extraordinary! Martinac has created an absolute incredible piece of fiction! Her narrative is beyond compelling! The storytelling is simply phenomenal and astonishingly gripping. It leaves an indelible impression; one can almost feel the marks. Readers will remember Testimony long after they digest its last word.

Much of Martinac’s story is based on the 1952 case against Martha Deane, a respected full professor at UCLA who was suspended without pay after kissing a woman. The incident was reported to the dean by a neighbor who had observed the two through Deane’s own window. Deane underwent a lengthy and costly hearing that, in reality, was nothing short of a witch hunt. UCLA eventually reached a settlement with Deane and she left her teaching position at the university. Upon her leaving, the administration buried Deane’s case deep within its records, obviously hoping it would never be found. However, it was stumbled upon nearly fifty years later by a historian conducting research regarding the Cold War loyalty oath at UCLA. This accidental unearthing brought the whole ugly incident to light once again and highlighted the horrors of homophobia. Sadly, condemnation for sexual preference is still prevalent today.

Testimony, is set in a small collegiate town in southwestern Virginian in 196O. The story takes place during a time when civil rights are being hard fought and homosexuals must hide who they are just to survive. Gen Rider has dedicated her academic career to succeeding and gaining tenure at Baines College for Women, an all-girls college founded for Christian white women. She understands better than most how dangerous it is to raise suspision to one’s sexuality, and she hides hers with a vigilance. She worries for her friends that don’t conduct themselves with this same dilligence. She fears their reckless sexual encounters put their jobs and lives at risk. Ironically, after years of discretion and secrecy, she finds herself yeilding to a night of passion with a colleague. That one moment of weakness causes her to defend everything she holds dear. She learns first hand how quickly the insidious nature of homophobia can destroy so much in one’s life.

Final remarks…

This story needs to be read. It is a powerful and consuming story that is so brilliantly well-done. Gin Rider isn’t real, but her story is for so many. She is a remarkable character, and one I will not soon forget. Testimony is a moving story and I applaud Paula Martinac for putting it to paper and bringing it to life so eloquently.

Strengths…

  • well-written
  • poignant
  • gripping
  • engaging
  • emotional
  • moving

Testimony can be purchased from…

Available formats…

  • Paperback
  • Ebook

About the author…

Paula Martinac is the author of seven novels – Dear Miss Cushman (2021); Testimony (2021); Clio Rising (2019), Gold Medal Winner, Northeast Region, Independent Publishers Book Awards 2020; The Ada Decades (2017), finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction; the Lambda Literary Award-winning Out of Time (1990; 2012 e-book); the Lammy-nominated Home Movies (1993); and Chicken (1997; 2001 reprint). Paula’s short stories appeared in The Raleigh Review, Minerva Rising, and Main Street Rag, among many others. She teaches creative writing to undergraduates at University of North Carolina at Charlotte and at Charlotte Center for the Literary Arts.

Connect with the author…

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