Unheard Witness: The Life and Death of Kathy Leissner Whitman (Hardcover)

Unheard Witness: The Life and Death of Kathy Leissner Whitman By Jo Scott-Coe Cover Image
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Unheard Witness foregrounds a young woman’s experience of domestic abuse, resistance, and survival before the mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin in 1966.

In 1966, Kathy Leissner Whitman was a twenty-three-year-old teacher dreaming of a better future. She was an avid writer of letters, composing hundreds in the years before she was stabbed to death by her husband, Charles Whitman, who went on to commit a mass shooting from the tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Kathy’s writing provides a rare glimpse of how one woman described, and sought to change, her short life with a coercive, controlling, and violent partner.

Unheard Witness provides a portrait of Kathy’s life, doing so at a time when Americans are slowly grasping the link between domestic abuse and mass shootings. Public violence often follows violence in the home, yet such private crimes continue to be treated separately and even erased in the public imagination. Jo Scott-Coe shows how Kathy's letters go against the grain of the official history, which ignored Kathy’s perspective. With its nuanced understanding of abuse and survival, Unheard Witness is an intimate, real-time account of trust and vulnerability—in its own way, a prologue to our age of atrocities.

About the Author

Jo Scott-Coe is a professor of English composition and literature at Riverside City College and the author of two nonfiction books, Teacher at Point Blank andMASS: A Sniper, a Father, and a Priest. joscottcoe.com

Praise For…

Historian Scott-Coe (Mass) paints a richly textured portrait of Kathy Leissner Whitman . . . Telling the story in flashbacks and vignettes, Scott-Coe presents this cautionary tale with compassion and sensitivity. The result is an insightful close study of the connection between domestic violence and mass shootings.
— Publishers Weekly

Told in vivid detail through an enormous trove of letters that Leissner’s brother kept long after her violent death, the reader plunges immediately, uncomfortably, and intimately into the life and thoughts of a doomed woman . . . She chooses to bring back to vivid life Kathy . . . and Scott-Coe succeeds: This book is an intimate and uncomfortable read that puts the reader deep inside Kathy’s mind.
— Texas Observer

Scott-Coe [is] uniquely positioned to approach the story of Whitman's long-suffering wife with expert care and thorough research...The author raises important questions and points out what research has found about intimate partner violence, framing Kathy's story as a cautionary tale, but one that is all too common. Without Whitman, she might be 80 years old today, enjoying retirement from a successful career as a teacher. With him, a promising life was cut short, and his terrorism overshadowed her memory, but this carefully crafted tribute ensures it will not be erased.
— The Austin Chronicle

Product Details
ISBN: 9781477327647
ISBN-10: 1477327649
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Publication Date: October 17th, 2023
Pages: 376
Language: English