Ojai author’s historical novel teaches tolerance, benefits animal rescue
Ojai author’s book benefits animal rescue
- By Wendy Dager
- Posted September 8, 2012 at 3 p.m.
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.