OPRF grad pens novel on domestic violence

Novel inspired by true events

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Melda Beaty has all kinds of stories in her head waiting to get down on paper or on a computer screen. She has for most of her life.

One of those stories, a novel dealing with domestic violence set against the New York fashion world, has just made it to print. Her book, Lime, hit bookshelves in July. It's about a multiracial model, Lime Prince, whose life in the fashion world collides with the realities of relationship violence against women.

The book was inspired in part by the popular TV show America's Next Top Model, and by a friend of the author's who was a victim of domestic violence. Beaty, a 1989 graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, says she's never been a victim but has older family members who were. Her friend — who's also her sorority sister — was a victim, which surprised Beaty. That friend inspired a somewhat unique take on the domestic violence issue that Beaty looked to explore in her book.

Her friend doesn't fit the typical stereotype of a domestic violence victim as portrayed in the media, — a financially unstable women with few or no opportunities to escape the violence — Beaty says. Her friend, she says, represents the other side of the issue — successful women whom you would never think could become a victim.

"I don't hear about those stories," Beaty said. "I'm not saying they're not being told at all, but you hear about the women who are of a certain race and age and socio-economic status. I don't hear stories about women who would make you shake your head if you heard they were victims. Not you; that's the other women who have no options. You have options."

Lime is Beaty's second book but first work of fiction. Her previous book, My Soul to His Spirit, was about women's relationships with, and feelings about, their fathers. In that book, Beaty talked with other women and gathered their stories. For Lime, the story came from Beaty, which is something she enjoyed.

The main character is Ethiopian and Jamaican; her green eyes and exotic beauty make her a natural as a fashion model. She rises to the heights of the New York fashion world, but finds herself pulled into a domestic violence situation that also stirs up memories of her own troubled past.

The character is a composite of different people, Beaty says. To ensure she captured her character's world accurately, Beaty researched the modeling industry and talked to professionals. She researched Ethiopia and Jamaica, even learning about the languages and dialects. Beaty studied national and local domestic violence organizations as well.

It was around 2004 that she thought of writing this story. At the time, Oprah Winfrey was doing a series of shows about the violence against and mutilation of Ethiopian women in their native country. Beaty was a frequent watcher of Top Model and was fascinated by the contestants. Around that same time she learned what was happening to her friend.

"I was shocked," Beaty recalled.

A Jackson, Miss. native and mother of three daughters, Beaty is planning a sequel to Lime. She also has other stories she hopes to write.

Beaty has enjoyed telling stories since she was a child. After graduating from OPRF, she earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana, but says she preferred the writing side to appearing on-air. Since switching careers, she has become a college writing professor and playwright.

She plans to focus on writing fiction books going forward. Whatever story she writes, though, she wants it to challenge readers to challenge society.

"I want to raise consciousness and want people to question society," Beaty said.

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Melda Beaty's name.

Reader Comments

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lynette miller from Oak Park, Illino  

Posted: August 19th, 2012 8:10 PM

This is an excellant article and a real eye opener. I am so Pround of Melda for pursuing her dreams and sharing her gift as writer with the world. I am pround that she has taken a platform and is shedding some light on domestic violence in the book Lime. Please support this book and all of Melda's projects. Lets make Melda Beaty a household name. I am wishing her the best and many blessings. I am your biggest fan and I am very proud of you.

Regina Botterill from Oak Park  

Posted: August 14th, 2012 2:35 PM

On behalf of Sarah's Inn, I want to applaud Melba Beaty for devoting her creative talents to such a critical issue. Thank you for echoing with your characters that domestic violence does not discriminate. Efforts like hers to raise consciousness and start dialogue are what will ultimately end domestic violence for future generations. Melba -- we applaud you!

Sarah from University Park  

Posted: August 9th, 2012 7:23 PM

thanks for taking on some of the issues of Domestic Violence because it is the underbelly of much dysfunction in many families that are yet to be revealed in future generations. Maybe we can learn how to let go of those things that pushes us to act out in bad ways. I am looking forward to you follow up book.

Cathlean Johnson from Chicago  

Posted: August 9th, 2012 10:28 AM

This is an issue that needed to be address I am looking forward to reading this novel. Melda is a great writer and a amazing wommen. I am buying copies for the important women in my life. Thank You Melda

angela mcgee  

Posted: August 8th, 2012 7:02 PM

Melda isa great story-teller. Her creative imagination coupled with her keen observation of life and society makes her the perfect writer to detail this issue of domestic violence. Her commitment to her gift and dedication should be commended. The world should prepare themselves for this new voice... a perspective from a woman who understands the struggles of life as well as the success that life will bring through faith. I am very proud of my friend and know her time has come!

JOY SANDERS from CHICAGO  

Posted: August 8th, 2012 1:50 PM

Excellent article! Thank you for writing about her newest novel. She is a great mom, daughter, sister and friend. I'm happy to know her and look forward to her many accomplishments in the future. (*note to editor. Melda graduated in the class of 1989) Peace and blessing

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