Article printed from the Co-op City Times:

Co-op City woman publishes her second memoir detailing the painful events of her childhood

Three years ago, Section 5 resident Sharon D. Smith made a name for herself after she wrote and published a memoir entitled My Life at the World Trade Center which detailed her life as a young struggling mother who, one day on a whim, applied for and won a secretarial position at the World Trade Center which changed her life for the better for over two decades there, but also brought her to the center of the two most infamous terrorists attacks on U.S soil, and how she narrowly survived both.
With that success behind her, earlier this month, she released her second memoir, a prequel to her first book, which detailed her childhood and her progression into young adulthood, growing up under adverse conditions while living in a public housing development in Harlem and in low-income communities in south Florida during the 1960’s and early ‘70s.
The new book is entitled, Screen Door, in reference to the screen door that she says has been placed over her heart during her life to keep away hurtful memories of her childhood. As she wrote in a message to her readers at the outset of the new book, “I am only releasing the latch on my screen door to relive the events that I have endured so that I may help others.”
She said this week in an interview with the Co-op City Times that perhaps the most integral way the book can help others is by starting a frank discussion on the ongoing problem of intra-racial prejudice — the problem of African-Americans being discriminated against by other African-Americans because of the shading of their skin.
She details in the book how her dark-shading made her an outcast among her young peers – other African American school children – during much of the 1960s from early in grade school through high school and even into her years entering the work force as a young adult in the 1970’s.
“I wrote the book to try to help curb the intra-racial prejudice that still exists today,” Sharon said, adding that her children were not aware of the problems that she endured as a child until reading the book. “The other day, I got a call from my son who recently read the book and he said ‘Mom, I went through all of that too.’ He told me how he was made fun of, like me, and how he had to fight through school. You never know how many people this effects so the book gives people affected by this a chance to see that they are not the only ones. The problem still exists and maybe by me telling my story I will be helping someone else, someone who is young today and going through the same thing.”
Sharon said the other theme that is prevalent through the book is domestic violence, the problem of having an abusive parent and alcoholism in the home that is often the cause of these problems.
“A lot of tears and a lot of reliving these experiences came out when I began to write,” she said.
Sharon said the idea came from a reunion of residents of her former Harlem housing development that she attended a few years ago and after that, memories of her childhood that were long repressed came flooding out. She began writing them down and before long the book started taking shape starting with when she was just five years old, telling the story as if seeing the world through the eyes of a five-year old and then as the book continues you start seeing her world through the eyes of a maturing child and then a teenager forced to cope with life’s hardships while shielding her younger siblings from most of those same hardships as best as she could.
She said the book was written over 18 months as she wrote daily, sometimes until early in the morning.
The first manuscript presented to her editor was over 500 pages long as all the memories long repressed were poured out onto the pages. Her editors, one of whom was the famed author Hillel Black, began removing certain sections for clarity, to eliminate redundancy, and to reduce liabilities.
The finished product is 210 pages long, telling the story of growing up amidst a wide variety of societal problems both in and outside the home, but yet persevering through it all thanks largely to the goodness of some of those around her like family, neighbors from the housing development in which she lived and also because of her faith in God.
Sharon’s daughter, Sharonda, who, like her other three siblings knew little of her mother’s past life before reading this book, said, “My mother is a great person who had to go through her struggles to get to where she is now.” Sharonda added that to arrive at this point where her books are published and read by many others did not come overnight, but rather was the product of hard work and much studying at various colleges through many years. “All of that has resulted in what she is today. I think she had done a phenomenal job in getting to where she is today coming from what she had to go through as a child. I realize now that despite everything, my grandmother did a lot with her life and my mother did a lot with her life so now the ball is in my court.”
Sharonda is currently pursuing her Master’s degree and hopes to one day start her own business.
Sharon’s Christian beliefs and the Christian lifestyle she has learned from her mother, Rev. Dr. Ruth Singletary, and later passed on to her own family, is perhaps the central theme of the book as she credits her Christian belief for getting her through life’s difficulties, both then and now.
The book is published by Westbow Press, a Christian publisher, who is currently marketing the book through its own website: The book is also available though both Amazon and Barnes and Noble at its websites, respectively: and
Sharon added that she sells many of her books, both this one and her first one, through personal appearances at churches and Christian conferences, mostly in southern states such as Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas, but also in this region. Her works are also marketed through Christian magazines.
“When you go through a Christian publisher, they go through the book to make sure you are not saying anything that is too far out there,” Sharon said, pointing out that when you recall an expression commonly used 50 years ago, it might not be accepted today.
She said that she hopes her next work will not be so personal, but rather delve into the evolution of the Christian faith that she grew up with and still lives by today, telling the story of how the faith has evolved over the past 50 years of her life.
She said in the book’s acknowledgements that she owes her life and success to God. “He gave me the will to live and comforts me, keeping my mind in peace.”

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