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Alabama State University Alumna Pens Memoir of Childhood Abuse, Triumph of Faith!
Posted By: Reggie Culpepper on December 03, 2019

Seeing Juliette McNeil today, one might be surprised at her painful beginnings.

Juliette, an Alabama State University alumna, not only has been a successful government executive, but she also is married to a renowned entrepreneur and has enjoyed a Washington, D.C. social life that has included such “A List” names as Barack and Michelle Obama.

In stark contrast to the personal and professional successes of her adult life, Juliette’s childhood was one of constant abuse and painful neglect, but she has drawn on spiritual strength and inspiration to turn an abusive childhood into a triumph of faith and forgiveness.

Her journey from victim to victor is revealed in her new book, “In From the Cold.” The 128-page book is a raw and intimate recounting of the lessons she has learned about life, love and letting go.

"My abusive childhood could have defined my life, but instead I survived through faith and love,” Juliette said.

“In From the Cold” portrays McNeil’s life in vivid detail and is a written testimony of her life’s journey of triumph over adversity. Through this candid memoir, readers will be able to experience the writer’s pain, grief, loneliness and heartbreak, as well as her happiness, peace and successes.

“I was driven to write the book because I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. When my mother died, there was no keepsake left behind to remember her by. This book is a way of leaving something behind for my daughter and grandchildren so that they know who I was and know about me,” Juliette said.

Juliette said her book’s title was inspired by her life experiences.

“I had a hard and cold childhood,” Juliette said. “I know I’m in a much better place than where I started, so that inspired me to say ‘In From the Cold.’”

Humble and Harsh Beginnings
The Birmingham, Ala., native grew up in a harsh, unloving home in the segregated South. She said her only consolation was the quiet assurance that God loved her no matter what.

Juliette was nine years old when her mother died. Her father, who was a coal miner, remarried soon after. Juliette said she had no time to grieve her mother’s death before her stepmother moved in with her family.

“I had to self-grieve. I had no one to support me, to offer me hope, all those things that you like to have when you are grieving,” Juliette sad. “My stepmother was a very unpleasant woman, and I’m being kind to say unpleasant.”

Juliette said the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father and stepmother was at times unbearable.

“It seemed my stepmother liked me initially because she had three sons. After she had a baby girl, it was as if she wanted to throw me away, to get me out of the picture. I was treated badly as a result of that. It was abuse — mental and physical,” Juliette said. “It was terrible. I had no support…I lived in a state of constant fear. Instead of (being a) child, I became a slave.”

Juliette said she had no social life. She said her daily routine consisted of waking up early to clean the house and then going to school without breakfast. She was forced to wash clothes by hand with an old rubbing board, even after her father purchased a washing machine. Juliette said her father beat her mercilessly because of stories that her stepmother made up about her.

Her stepmother wielded absolute power and control over the young girl’s life.

“I didn’t have a father to turn to for any kind of comfort because he showed no interest in his children, even when mother was alive,” Juliette said. “I needed some sort of care and comfort.”
Her childhood was one in which she felt unloved, unseen and marginalized.

“My stepmother would always tell me ‘[You will] never be good for nothing,’” Juliette said.
Teen Years

Unlike many teenagers, Juliette did not turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the realities of her life; instead, she armored herself by turning to her faith. She said she prayed constantly and sequestered herself behind her bed to read the Bible.

“I cried myself asleep most nights between my dad’s displeasure and stepmom’s spitefulness. At some point, I asked God to take my life simply because I didn’t think it was worthy enough to continue to live. God was there lifting me up as he saw my tears and heard prayers. Faith brought me through difficult years of loneliness and abuse.”

Juliette finally escaped her traumatic situation when she left home to attend college.
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