Author sent daughter to wilderness camp

When Joseph Suste and his wife realized they were losing control over their teenage daughter, they took desperate measures — dropping her off at a teen recovery camp in the wilderness outside Bend and leaving her there for months.

Years later, Suste used the experience as the inspiration for his recently published book "Sharp Obsidian," which is available at Bloomsbury Books and Tree House Books in Ashland, Quality Paperbacks in Talent and online through Amazon and Suste's website at

In an interview with the Daily Tidings, the author, who lives outside Medford, discussed his book. Q. What was the origin of your book "Sharp Obsidian"?

A. The book is fiction, but it's based on an experience I had when my 14-year-old daughter was out of control. I got lost in what to do. At 14 years old, teenagers are becoming independent of their parents and they realize they can take charge of themselves. They don't have the experience to go into the world and make a living. But they recognize they don't have to follow all the rules anymore.Older 19-year-old guys had decided to take charge of my daughter. We put her in a teen recovery camp southeast of Bend. At the time, it was called Obsidian Trails. They camped in the desert with no lodge or cabins — just bare desert. They would set up camp in the middle of nothing, make fire and shelter, and go to sleep. The next day they would hike three to five miles and do it again. It was no-impact camping, so they left no trace behind. My daughter was in this school for 90 days.

Q. How did you get a teenage girl's viewpoint?

A. My daughter is now in her late 20s. I interviewed her for her side of the story about her feelings and the events that happened. The book is written from two points of view — the father and daughter. I think it's valuable to parents to see the teenager's point of view and it's valuable for teenagers to see what parents are going through. The book is fiction, but the emotions are real.I had the journal my daughter wrote out in the field. They recommended she write poems. I have those poems and they are in the book. I edited them somewhat.One thing I didn't realize was how difficult it was for her when she was in this situation. We did exchange letters while she was gone. The only communication was by letter. Hers were reviewed by the school before she sent them. Her letters couldn't be full of complaints that would get parents to relent and bring her home. The rigor of the school was much more intense than I realized. When we got her back, she was pretty muscular. She was a different person.

Q. What is your daughter's perspective on the experience now?

A. She doesn't want to look back at it at all. She thinks it was a terrible part of her life. It did pull her away from people who were influencing her negatively. She was closer to her best friends than she was to her family. They've had issues with drugs, pregnancy and run-ins with the law. She sees now they were a bad influence.

Q. What was the most difficult thing about writing the book?

A. The hardest part was getting her voice right. I could do it because I had her journals. It took me five years to write this book. It's my first book and it was a learning process. I worked with a writers' group in Ashland and took it through that group 10 pages at a time. Both parents and teenagers are appropriate readers for the book. It gives good insight into the emotions and thoughts of parents and teenagers.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or Follow her at


Share This Story