Marty Jezer refelction by Nora O'Connor posted August 9, 2005 to Remembering-Marty-Jezer, a yahoo group which was closed in 2007
This article was published in the upcoming Passing Twice newsletter .
Tribute to Marty Jezer: Radical, Activist & Optimist
By: Nora A. O'Connor
It seems like only yesterday when I met Marty Jezer in 1995 ...I was an aspiring writer, and he had established
himself in that realm. I was an advocate for social justice, and he had not only lived through the 60's - but also actively participated in organizing the antiwar movement. Marty had a voice in civil rights movements that forever shaped our nation, even when he claimed he could hardly speak a fluent word. I loved the game of basketball and he embraced the fluid sport as well. He was a New Yorker, and I believed that I was a New Yorker in a past life of mine. At the time I met Marty, I was dying with my stuttering, not living with my stuttering. And well, Marty had a severe stutter - and seemed to be doing pretty well for himself. I joined him in that category of having a severe stutter - but I wasn't doing very well at
I was in awe of Marty, and when his book was published, Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words, I hung on to every written word. The book was published around the time of the National Stuttering Project convention in Buffalo (1997). His experience as a stutterer was a lifeline for me to hang on to until I could see that I could be someone too, and still stutter. I am one of those folks who underline "identifying" sentences in books. I recently
started reading my highlighted sections. These insights (and others) led me to move beyond "I am not alone," and to feel that the darkness and despair that I lived with daily, may become a memory someday.
After the 1997 NSP convention, I was scheduled to attend the Successful Stuttering Management Program (SSMP) at Eastern Washington University. At the age of 25, I was almost two years clean & sober and had allowed just a little bit of light to enter me. I still couldn't answer the phone or make business calls. I still thought I would never reach any of my career goals, and be working at the YMCA daycare forever (or return to a life of crime and drugs). I still was so angry, bitter and scared. I also was ambivalent about attending an intensive speech therapy program. I had given up on speech therapy when I was 12 years old, and had chosen to live a life of silence destined to die at a young age. Marty
and his powerful book enabled my anxiety filled body to get on the airplane to Spokane, Washington. I knew had to start facing my fears, and taking responsibility for my life. Or continue living a life of being strangled by my constant, twisted insane thoughts of "who I could be if I did not stutter."Marty signed the book for me in Buffalo, and I carried it with me to the SSMP and re-read passages often during the program. Marty was an instrumental part of my personal development that summer.
- "I felt imprisoned in a dungeon of disfluency - and the walls were closing in," p. 177.
- "Good looks don't help on the phone, nor does physical expressiveness, body English or a winning smile. Everything rests on
the sound of your voice," p. 117.
- "Pretending to blow my brains out gave me release. I fantasized death, even scripted my own funeral service, which would have everyone in tears. With death comes silence - no more stuttering! - and in silence there is
peace," p. 177.
- "The contrast between the self-confident me and the stuttering me was becoming too great. The better I felt about the direction of my life, the more I wanted to deny my faulty speech," p. 163.
- "I was determined to prove myself that I could succeed in that world," p. 152.
I bought at least a dozen of Marty's books as Holiday gifts that year - Marty graciously signed all of them, and many others throughout the years. It's been the best gift to give to non-PWS and PWS. I remember buying my psychotherapist the book. I wanted her to have an autograph copy - and within days of the request, Marty signed the book and mailed if from Vermont to California. When I asked him to donate an autographed copy of Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words, to the Friends 2004 Convention auction, the book and a note arrived in the mail within a week.
I also grew interested in reading about civil rights history, and often would ask Marty to recommend books. One of his first suggestions was his own book Abbie Hoffman, American Rebel I had heard about Abbie and Anita Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, the Yippies - but Marty's account of Abbie and that era gave me a new definition of radical, activist and optimism.
Marty was also a radical, an activist and an optimist. He continues to live
within me, and so many others who have held me (and continue to) as I learned to accept the one thing I hated with such vicious venom, my stuttering. I was able to tell Marty before he died that I moved from not having a voice to becoming "the voice of the voiceless." Thank you Marty.