November 19, 2018

Writing Her Way Through Tragedy

When Sara-Chana Silverstein wrote her book proposal for “Moodtopia,” she had no idea it would serve as a blueprint for her own journey.

The Los Angeles native who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., is an herbalist, classical homeopath and international board-certified lactation/breastfeeding consultant who said she decided to write “Moodtopia” to help people combat stress and improve their quality of life. 

Her book offers a guide on how to integrate herbs, aromatherapy and color therapy into people’s lives. Doing so helps you “learn to be in control of your moods so your moods don’t control you,” Silverstein told the Journal in an interview at a Los Angeles coffee shop. 

“Becoming a master of your moods is something people need to practice every day,” she added. 

Silverstein wrote the book proposal for “Moodtopia” in 2014. The following spring, around the same time she was shopping the book to agents, her 26-year-old daughter was hit by a car while crossing the street in the crosswalk. She emerged from the accident miraculously unscathed and was cleared by the hospital. However, five months later, in October, she suddenly became paralyzed from the shoulders down. Doctors diagnosed her with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory disorder of the spinal cord, and said she would be a quadriplegic for the rest of her life.

“I ended up living in the hospital for 7½ months,” Silverstein said. “I stopped working. I couldn’t leave the hospital, because my daughter couldn’t even hit the emergency call button.”

It was during that period that Silverstein unconsciously began in-corporating the lessons she had laid out in her book proposal. She placed a sign on her daughter’s hospital room door saying no one could enter unless they were smiling. She started spraying essential oils in the room and all the nurses would migrate there. She brought in plants, painted her daughter’s nails and dressed her in hospital gowns that were in her daughter’s color palette. She snuck in acupuncture, massage, craniosacral and Feldenkrais Method specialists, and practiced laughter yoga to facilitate her daughter’s healing.

“Despite what everybody said at New York University and Mount Sinai hospital, my daughter is up and walking with a cane,” Silverstein said. 

An Orthodox woman with seven children, Silverstein admitted, “My faith left immediately” in the wake of her daughter’s diagnosis. “I struggled as a religious woman to have faith in God when he would do this to my daughter. But I continued to keep Shabbos and keep kosher. I continued to dress modestly. And I slowly but surely saw the miracles of my daughter’s hard work and her belief that she was going to get better.”

In December 2015, Silverstein landed an agent and then sold the book proposal in early 2016. She completed the book a year after her daughter was hospitalized.

Said Silverstein, “It says in the Days of Creation that God put the healing in the world before the illness. He created plants and trees before man. Since the Holocaust, when all the midwives and the wise women were killed, we also lost the wisdom of plant knowledge. And one of the goals of my book is to re-educate the Jewish people on the ways they can use herbs.”

Silverstein, who grew up in Studio City, moved to New York when she was 23. However, she spends every summer in Los Angeles and visits several times a year. 

She’s delighted to be back “home” for the local release of “Moodtopia,” which will take place at The Grove’s Barnes & Noble on Aug. 28. 

“I’m an L.A. girl,” she quipped, “who visits New York for the winters.”