The University of Wisconsin Press

Autobiography / Women's Studies / Writing

Black Eye
Escaping a Marriage, Writing a Life
Judith Strasser

Terrace Books, a trade imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press

"An unflinching, unsparing, un-put-down-able diary of a woman's slow tumble to health, freedom, and even joy, against terrifying odds. Black Eye is the kind of book we wish no one had to write, but which we are compelled to read."—Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

Seventeen years after she married, Judith Strasser escaped her emotionally and physically abusive husband and sought a better way to live. In the process, Strasser rediscovered what she had suppressed through that long span of time: exceptional strength and a passion for writing.

Black Eye includes excerpts from a journal Strasser kept from 1985 to 1986, the year she made the decision to leave her marriage, and present-day commentary on the journal passages and her family history. Strasser works like a detective investigating her own life, drawing clarity and power from journal passages, dreams, and memories that originally emerged from confusion and despair. With language that is both insightful and poetic, she reveals the psychological and social circumstances that led a "strong" woman, an intelligent and politically active feminist, to become an emotionally dependent, abused wife.

Not coincidentally, the same year that Strasser finally found the courage to leave her husband, she also reclaimed her creative voice. Newly empowered and energized by this enormous life change, Strasser began writing again after twenty-five silent years dominated by her mother's illness and death, her own cancer, and her painful, fearful marriage. Black Eye is one of the fruits of this creative reawakening. Strasser's writing is refreshingly honest and instantly engrossing. Not shy of wretchedness or beauty, Strasser's story is bitterly personal, ultimately triumphant, and inspiring to all who deal with the adversity that is part of human life.

"One feels one is peering into a life, in all its pure daily awfulness." —Heather Sellers, author of Georgia under Water

"Stu and I stand in the laundry room in the basement of our first house in Madison. He raises his hand and slaps me, hard. Why? Are we arguing about the layer of lint on the dryer? Is he angry because there's laundry detergent caked around the rim of the washing machine? . . . Did I scream at him about something that had nothing to do with clothes? What I remember: my stinging cheek."—Excerpt from Black Eye

photo of the author, Judith Strasser, outdoors, by a birch tree. She wears a bright turtlenceck and a grey blazer.Judith Strasser (1944–2009) was a freelance writer who conducted poetry and memoir writing workshops for adults and children. From 1992 to 2000 Strasser was senior producer and interviewer for To the Best of Our Knowledge, a nationally distributed public radio program. Judith's poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Witness and other literary magazines and anthologies; her book-length collection, How to Stay Alive, has been a finalist in several national book competitions. Strasser has written a second book published by Borderland Books, and distributed by the UW Press, Facing Fear: Cancer and Politics, Courage and Hope.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

the cover of Black Eye is illustrated with an illustration of several birch trees beside a stream.

March 2004
LC: 2003021175 CT
362 pp.  6 x 9

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Cloth $26.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-19930-2
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