A cover image of "You won't find me under the bell jar" by poet Mara Nieman-Hargroder. The image is a blue sky with a field of sunflowers. The tallest sunflower has a ladybug resting on a petal.

you won't find me under the bell jar

Mara Nieman-Hargroder's third poetic novel is an autobiographical and raw approach to the creation of poetry and its meaning. Poems in "You Won't Find Me Under the Bell Jar" are free-verse explorations into metaphor and reality, stitching together an overarching tale of her life.


Can't Believe It

I fell like tumbling stones
Into the void of your distance
I didn’t even know I was moving
Or falling
Or rolling

I found myself
In the there where
You weren’t anymore

I could hear echoes
Of words and smell fragrances
Of promises
Saving your place
Like a program for a concert
Sitting on a bleacher seat

"I’ll be back”, said the words
“He’s gone”, said my heart.

The cover for "Dear Sister Survivor" by poet Mara Nieman-Hargroder. The cover is bright pink and has a tear in the center. Below the tear, a pink ribbon transitions into a heartbeat.

Dear Sister Survivor...

In 2015, Mara's life, career, and roles came to a standstill when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Throughout the process of diagnosis and treatment, the author felt a need to connect with her sisters surviving breast cancer alongside her. In writing this collection of poetic letters, she reveals her mental and emotional state to the reader while serving as a fundamental tool in her healing. After surviving the treatments, she continued writing to her fellow sisters enveloped in the aftermath of diagnosis, producing this valuable companion to those undergoing breast cancer treatment.


Reviews for
Dear Sister Survivor...

Reviews from Barnes and Noble

A positive book by a brave author

‘Dear Sister Survivor…’ is a refreshingly honest account of a modern day woman dealing with breast cancer. The author tells her story via a series of letters intended for those in a similar situation, interwoven with some of the best poetry I’ve read in a while. Her style is frank and open, courageous in sharing her inner most thoughts about the everyday impacts, and generous in reaching out and offering genuine support and hope to other women. The poems are poignant yet humorous, especially ‘Uninvited; I’m the Queen (about shopping at Costco); and Painted Red (her lipstick). You can dip in and out of this book, revisit it, and take comfort, laughs and tears. For me, the most surprising aspect of this book is close to the end where the author shares her simple yet powerful philosophy on living with cancer. Thank you Mara Nieman-Hargroder!

The Book Was A Wonderfully Easy Read

It is a message of hope, resiliency, and faith. Although the book speaks specifically to women who have been touched by breast cancer directly or indirectly, the message could really be applied to anyone, anywhere with any struggle they may be faced with. It is a raw look at breast cancer through the eyes of the author. She minces no words about the struggles of this horrible disease from all angles. She is an inspiration to all.

I Am So Touched By Mara's Book.

As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, and a therapist who has been a witness to many, many cancer stories, this book is so important. Mara has given all of us affected by cancer a beautiful way to connect to her experience, which is so close to our collective experience. She has a way of giving the reader a felt sense that no one is alone, which springs from her own vulnerability. One of my favorite parts of this book is Mara's way of honoring the coping strategies each person has and needs to have to survive, without judgment. Thank you Mara for this lovely book.

Mara knows how it feels

Mara Nieman-Hargroder knows how it feels to be ashamed to look in the mirror, while at the same time feeling guilty for the vanity of that shame. She knows what it’s like to be grabbed by the ankles and pulled underwater, and also what it’s like to emerge from the depths out-of-breath but still breathing. For Mara-Nieman Hargroder is a survivor—and more importantly a sister, one you didn’t know you had. She is a lifeline to hold onto when the tentacles of diagnosis and treatment drag you under.

Ms Nieman-Hargroder’s new book, “Dear Sister Survivor…the Ribbon Between Us” is one for the ages, a definitive work in the genre of breast cancer literature. This year (and for many years to come) millions of seemingly healthy women will be get the news from their physicians that they are “her”, the one they’d seen in the waiting room and prayed they’d never be. Thus will begin the “new normal” where something as common as a cold is as serious as as a death-match with a hooded, knife-wielding attacker.

Using the things of everyday life, she rips his mask off: Wigs, red lipstick, blue hormone pills, lava cake, even tears, become defensive weapons. Husbands, friends, colleagues, become an auxiliary unit drafted to help in the fight. Cancer feeds on self-abnegation, so Ms Nieman-Hargroder exhorts us to make radiation treatment just a brief interlude in a day full of self-indulgence; we are to be Costco Queens who yell, “Off with his head!”.

As an added bonus, the author has included a dozen original poems, many of which are appended to the chapters as text-enhancements. Here she is incarnated as a shaman who answers cancer’s power with the power of incantation. With this power we swim faster than we sink, eventually dragging ourselves onto dry land to kiss the sand of recovery. Next to us, also kissing the sand, is Mara Nieman-Hargroder; she swam alongside of us all the way.

Where do I begin?

I knew that I would be embarking on an emotional ride when I started this book, but I did not realize that along with the sorrow and shock and loss, that there would be this overwhelming sense of hope and joy and sisterhood that breaks through in the words of encouragement and support that Mara offers through her honest and raw writing. She deeply cares for her sisters and envelopes what it means to have empathy for others. Although I am not a sister survivor I was deeply moved by the letters and poems, and I highly recommend this book to any reader. And what a beautiful gift that the proceeds go to cancer research. Thank you Mara for sharing your journey, and your encouragement.... You are precious.

I Love, Love, Love This Book

Although I have not suffered the trials of a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment I find Mara's words soothing for any calamity in life. She is a gifted woman and I admire her deeply for taking on the challenge of this subject. I read one letter a day and keep the book at my bedside.


The Sound of Surviving

As I lay on the cold hard table
made to feel soft by pillows
under knee and head
the stanza…
“… Fools, said I, you do not know,
silence like a cancer grows… “
went around and around in my head
like a 45-rpm record spinning.
Strumming guitars and easy soft voices
Simon and Garfunkel repeating
over and over
“… like the sound of silence…”.

There was no silence to be found.
Silence screamed at me
tortured me with lyric
sans melody
A prayer mantra…
Killing the cancer
Killing the cancer
Finding the rogue cells
Kill the cancer

“Don’t move”, they said.
“Hold up your arms”, they said.
“Now, do not move”, they said.
I was innocent… yet I obeyed
As if I were a robber caught at the scene
I tried to tell them
I was the good one.

The cover for "Letters I Wish I'd Found" by Mara Nieman-Hargroder. The cover is littered with different letters and a pen nib rests on top of them.

Letters I Wish I'd Found

A collection of fictional letters written from one person to another. An intimate peek at intimate communication. I imagined a different life for these characters if I had found these letters... if they had found these letters. What might life had been if only...


Dear Reader,

I address to you in letterform for an obvious reason. This whole book is about letters from one person to another. It's an intimate peek at communication. Understand that no matter how real these people seem (and I hope you come to see them as very real) they are fictional. They are creatures of my mind taken from bits of my life and inspired by many people. Consider this: we are all human and more alike than we are different.

So, as I write about the human condition and you see yourself, don't be so surprised.

Another thing to keep in mind: These are letters I wish I had found. Outcomes I wished for, but never experienced. The real outcomes will perhaps be held on pages in another book.

My greatest hope and intention with this book is for connection. I hope you will at least find love, forgiveness, kindness and hope in these pages.

A portrait of poet Mara Nieman-Hargroder

About The Author

Mara Nieman-Hargroder. A proud native
Californian. A San Francisco Bay Area resident
for the first 43 years of her life, Mara is a sucker
for the smell of ocean air, Boudin’s Sourdough
French Bread, cracked-crab by the bucket-load
and walks on the beach for any and every
reason. As a child, when asked what she
wanted to be when grown, her answer was, “A
singing, dancing, hair-dresser....nurse.” She had a plan. Yet, like life often offers, plans change. Writing was and is her passion; finding her and asking her to record her way...her visions...her secrets...her everything.


Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.