Sister Maple Syrup Eyes is one of the first books published from the historically under-reported perspective on rape: from that of the lesser and oft-forgotten other victim, the individual’s partner. With terse lyricism, this novella radiates the anguish of attempting to repair a love and life shattered by violence. Through a series of deliberately concise and untitled chapters, the story erupts in a before/after chasm, culminating with the main character’s facing a tentative peace with his past.
Readers+Writers journal praised it, “A beautiful book. Achingly beautiful.” And Louder Than War states the book is, “….alive with the energy of an eye-witness.” Small Press Picks notes, “In vividly re-creating Kristian’s personal journey, Brennan offers a layered and moving exploration of the truth…”
Ian Brennan has been training people across the USA as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East in violence prevention, anger management, and conflict resolution for over 20 years. He has trained over 100,000 people through these workshops, often at shelters, schools, hospitals, clinics, jails, and drug-treatment centers nationwide including the Betty Ford Center, Bellevue Hospital (NYC), and Stanford University. In addition, he is a GRAMMY-winning music producer and the author of the books Anger Antidotes (2011) and Hate-less (2014).
In the studio, he has worked with the likes of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Kyp Malone & Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio, Rain Machine), Flea, Tinariwen, Lucinda Williams, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Nels Cline (Wilco), DJ Bonebrake & John Doe (X, the Knitters), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Peter Case, Bob Forrest (Thelonious Monster), Bill Frisell, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jonathan Richman, Richard Thompson, and more. With live concerts, he has produced shows of up to 15,000 people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington (DC), Portland (OR), Tucson, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and Boston with artists as diverse as Green Day, Fugazi, Merle Haggard, film-maker John Waters, Kris Kristofferson, Tammy Faye (Bakker), the Blind Boys of Alabama, Vic Chesnutt, Peaches, and the Vienna Boys Choir. These shows have raised over $100,000 for local charities and political causes.
In the field, some of the artists that he has discovered and produced are The Good Ones (Rwanda), Wayo: Trance Percussion Masters (South Sudan), Acholi Machon, and the Malawi Mouse Boys. Many are the first releases internationally outside of their respective countries in the languages of each band. The Mouse Boys’ debut was named “the year’s best gospel album” by Songlines Magazine. The record General Paolino featuring Mama Celina was named one of the “Top 8 African Releases of 2013” by Renegade Magazine.
Most recently, he produced the Zomba Prison Project “I Have No Everything Here” (Six Degrees Records) with the prisoners of Zomba maximum security prison, Hanoi Masters “War is a Wound, Peace is Scar” (Glitterbeat Records) with veterans and survivors of the American-Vietnam war, and Italy’s Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino [CGS] “Quaranta ” (Ponderosa Label). He also produced “Survival Songs”, the first official solo album from Bob Forrest (Thelonious Monster, Celebrity Rehab). Brennan also produced Italian superstar, Jovanotti’s official USA debut Italia: 1988-2012 for ATO Records in 2012 and co-wrote two world-premiere, new songs for the release. The collection was given 4-stars and named “…one of the best releases of the year,” by Aesthetic Magazine (Toronto).
For more on Ian Brennan visit http://www.ianbrennan.com/bio/
Jody Raphel, Rape Is Rape –
I have read no better description than Sister Maple Syrup Eyes of how a rapist humiliates and owns his/her victim, not only during the attack but long afterwards. Everyone should read this moving and poetic book, but especially those who discount the seriousness of rape. – Jody Raphel, Rape Is Rape
Afric McGlinchey, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things –
Rape doesn’t just affect the victim. In this poignant, usually untold account, Ian Brennan deals with the long-term impact of rape on a relationship. His stark, vivid narrative mines the pain of love and the spiraling contamination of rape s aftermath, as he acknowledges his own feelings of guilt-by-association. This is a brave and honest story of loss, and the urge to find redemption.
– Afric McGlinchey, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things
Readers + writers Journal –
In the preface to Sister Maple Syrup Eyes, author Ian Brennan briefly shares his experiences as the partner of a woman who was raped. He goes on to explain that the purpose of his book is to examine the toll sexual assault takes on the partner of a woman who was raped, and he clearly states that he does not mean to equate the impact of sexual assault on the primary victim with the impact sexual assault has on the people who love the primary victim. Those caveats aside, Mr. Brennan should be applauded for taking on a topic this controversial. Told in short snippets of scenes almost short poems, we learn the story of Kristian and Dawn. They re both damaged in their own ways in fact, they first meet at a hospital after Dawn has been beaten by her boyfriend and Kristian is the nurse who cares for her. Kristian cares for her as a nurse and then as a person and winds up taking her home with him. The first third of the story is a poetic, haunting description of falling in love, devotion, and what it feels like to find the person you think you re meant to be with. As the relationship progresses, they have a child, Jo. The scenes gradually change the couple s child is terminally ill, there is addiction. Ruptures appear in what seemed like the perfect relationship. When Dawn is sexually assaulted by someone both she and Kristian know, by someone that Kristian has introduced her to, the relationship begins to fall apart. How does a couple deal with a sexual assault and a daughter dying of leukemia simultaneously? Brennan writes: Kristian becomes adrift, especially after his daughter dies. Dawn has moved on from the relationship, be he cannot. He flees from the emotional by trying to understand the rape intellectually, and his preoccupation grows. He recounts a series of incidents involving rape the rape of other women he s known, the reactions of strangers to rape scenes in movie theaters, the prevalence of rape generally. It is clear that sexual assault preoccupies him and has become both the greatest heartbreak in his life and his reason for existing. He is consumed and obsessed both with the loss of his relationship with Dawn and with the violence that he blames for it. The novella ends with another brief scene in which he seems adrift and no longer able to find his place in the world. In one of the last references to Dawn, Kristian contemplates her loss: This is a deeply affecting work that expresses love and loss powerfully and with an almost unbearable sadness. There are no answers here merely passing scenes of a man s life falling apart as he longs for what he had and lost. Issues of caretaking, codependency, and responsibility are not explored. They are perhaps implied, but this is a work more concerned with description than with introspection. It is uncommonly good at that- the short chapters are momentary glimpses into the lives of two people, and yet the images Brennan conjures are haunting and stay with the reader long after the reading is done. Sister Maple Syrup Eyes is a beautiful book. Achingly beautiful. What it tells us about the facts and figures of sexual assault rape is slight and what it has to say about the inner life of the rape victim is almost non-existent. And yet, in the story of one man s reaction to sexual assault, Sister Maple Syrup Eyes may say volumes about the profound impact that sexual violence has on all of us, even those who have never experienced it first hand. – JULY 5, 2015 / Readers + writers Journal