by Raissa Tetanish
TRURO: Strength, hope, resiliency.
Those three words fill the pages of Karen Dean’s new book, We Are Unbreakable: Raw, Real Stories of Resilience, which launched online through Amazon at the end of November.
“I named the voice in my head Gina, in honour of my friend (Gina Goulet) taken in the mass shooting,” said Dean, a single mother of three who lives in Middle Musquodoboit. “I actually woke up one morning in October with her voice in my head telling me to do this book.”
The book shares not only Dean’s story, but the stories of 21 other women in the province on how they got through this “unprecedented year.” Some of those female contributors are Colchester County residents.
“I’m fortunate to know lots of incredible women. I reached out to about 40 of them, and 21 got back to me with their story by the deadline I set for myself. The book features so many women from all walks of life, all ages, and experiences. Even though we’re all different, we’re all the same,” said Dean.
The stories feature the struggles, togetherness, strength, and resilience of the women.
“These are all wonderful women and our stories really show our strength, resilience, and togetherness. I definitely can’t pick a favourite. I love them all.”
The story, however, that warms Dean’s heart the most comes from Emily Kierstead, the mother of Lisa McCully, one of the 22 victims (plus an unborn child) of the mass shooting that happened on Nova Scotia soil on April 18 and 19.
“That woman just has the biggest heart,” said Dean. “It’s such a touching story about her daughter.”
Other contributors include Canadian naval Commander Michele Tessier, whom Dean says went above and beyond and got stories from women in the navy, including two who were on HMCS Fredericton when a Cyclone crashed, killing all six on board; StFX alumnus Nancy Regan, who Dean calls her hero and grew up watching on television; and Josie Ryan, the executive director of Long Term Care with the Northwood Group of Companies who shares how the coronavirus impacted the long-term care facility.
“Her story is so, so touching,” said Dean about Ryan, adding people can only imagine from the outside how the virus and pandemic affected those inside Northwood.
One local contributor, Carley Gloade of Millbrook First Nation, is a relative of Dean’s. Gloade shares her experience with the moderate livelihood fishery.
“Being family, you think you understand what they’ve been through, but when you read her words, you realize you don’t really know what they’ve been going through,” she said.
Other contributors to the book include Amy Hill, Amy VenderHeide, Angela Mercer-Penny, Colleen O’Dea, Diane Muise, Ifeoma Esonwune, Lisa Drader-Murphy, Margaret Miller, Miriah Kearney, Mounfiq Abu, Nikki Porter, Robin Legge, Sam Madore, Sarah Stewart-Clark, Tanya Priske, and Tracy Stuart.
Kearney, who owns My Home Apparel and My Home Mercantile, says she’s honoured to be included in the book “among such incredible women” in the province.
“2020 is a year we will never forget and this book gathered experiences, thoughts, and testimonies of so many amazing women,” said Kearney.
“I am slightly embarrassed so many people will be reading my story, but I am truly humbled to be included and to be a part of this experience. This was a very tough, very rewarding year for me and my business, and I am thankful to have this opportunity to share it with so many people.”
On Apr. 3, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, in a briefing on the pandemic, urged people to “Stay the blazes home.” Kearney took those words and created a clothing line through My HOME Apparel. She made the decision to donate 100 per cent of the proceeds of sales of those products to charities.
Since launching the line, over $120,000 has been donated to numerous charities, such as Shelter Nova Scotia, Feed Nova Scotia, and the QEII Foundation.
Since being released on Amazon, Dean’s book has been a popular one in the Canadian Collections and Readers category. It’s been in the top spot in both the Best Sellers and Hot New Releases categories, as well as number two in Most Wished For (next to Peter Mansbridge’s book).
It topped the Best Sellers list only six days after release.
“I was really blown away by that,” Dean said, adding it’s reached as high as #52 among the eight million titles available online. “It’s incredible. I had no idea it would be that popular. It’s phenomenal and I feel so proud of all those other women who are part of this best-selling book.”
Kearney reciprocates Dean’s sentiments, directing them to the author.
“I am so thrilled for Karen and all of her success with this book,” said Kearney. “She deserves it all, as she is hard working, kind, and a dedicated member of the community.”
A portion of all the proceeds will go toward the Nova Scotia Remembers Legacy Society to help establish a bursary fund for women in rural Nova Scotia particularly affected by the shootings. Guidelines for the bursary are expected to be drafted early in 2021.
“This year, for me, was a lot about giving back,” said Dean, who created Countryfied Clothing in 2010.
Following the shooting, Dean created a Nova Scotia Strong line through the clothing company and donated $96,000 to the Stronger Together Nova Scotia Fund in three months.
“I felt I needed to help more. I’ve always felt the need to empower women. I really want to make an impact.” For more information on We Are Unbreakable, including how to order and to learn more about the contributors, visit: https://weareunbreakable.ca/.