Del Mar writer documents ‘SHEROs’

Del Mar resident Shannon Hogan Cohen
Del Mar resident Shannon Hogan Cohen, left, is seen at a book release event recently at the Del Mar Plaza’s Ramsey art gallery with Tomoko Sakaguchi-Harmond, who displays a copy of Cohen’s book “S.H.E., Share Heal Empower — Collected Journeys, Volume II.”

(Cole T. Cohen)

Book tells stories of 22 women overcoming challenges


Desperate to escape war in Ukraine, Yuliya bought a clunker and drove herself and her 4-year-old son to Switzerland.

Tomoko overcame the disdain of her Japanese parents and relatives to become a successful singing coach in Los Angeles.

A pimp saved Dr. Debby’s life by warning her to drop her friendships with the women he prostituted.

Born in Casablanca in 1942, Izza moved with her parents to France when she was 17 and went on to become the “Godmother of Moroccan film.”

These are among the 22 narratives about the lives of women that Del Mar resident Shannon Hogan Cohen has compiled in “S.H.E., Share Heal Empower — Collected Journeys, Volume II.”

The cover of “S.H.E., Share Heal Empower — Collected Journeys, Volume II.”
The cover of “S.H.E., Share Heal Empower — Collected Journeys, Volume II.”
(Courtesy of Shannon Hogan Cohen)

Cohen calls these women “SHEROs” because they have conquered immense challenges to lead positive, productive lives.

“I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of amazing women and I wanted to share their stories,” Cohen said in a recent interview. “I wanted to share the lessons they were teaching me. ... Each chapter is a vignette of each woman’s life in some form and fashion.”

As she writes in her introduction to the book, SHEROs “can teach us to adeptly overcome our innermost chaos and confusion while navigating the labyrinth we call life.”

Release of the book, her second in what Cohen envisions as a series, was celebrated in early June at the Ramsey Art Gallery in Del Mar Plaza, which fittingly offers inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean.

About 20 of the subjects from Volumes I and II attended the event and artwork from the books was displayed as well. Cohen estimated as many as 200 guests attended.

“It was a great event,” she said. “We didn’t do that much promotion.”

Author Shannon Hogan Cohen
Author Shannon Hogan Cohen, right, appears with Araceli Alvarez at the recent event held at the Ramsey art gallery in the Del Mar Plaza. The event was held to celebrate the release of Cohen’s book, “S.H.E., Share Heal Empower — Collected Journeys, Volume II.” Cohen, a Del Mar resident, plans a third volume that would include the story of Alvarez, a Tijuana resident.
(Cole T. Cohen)

In the foreword to Volume II, Pamela Hale, author of “How to Be the Pilot of Your Own Life”, recalls meeting Cohen by chance for the first time in a Del Mar coffee shop.

“There is an irony and poignancy to my meeting Shannon that summer day at Bohemian Alchemist, as I believe she is a storytelling alchemist — weaving impactful narratives from the magical connections she fosters with women from all walks of life and circumstance.”

Inspiration for Cohen to embark on Volume 1 stemmed from her experience observing the perseverance of her mother. Cohen describes her father, who died when she was 11, as an abusive, alcoholic husband.

“She’s really lived a life of resilience,” Cohen said of her mother. “I watched her growing up and knew there was more to her story than what she was sharing.

“She was my inspiration. I call her the ‘O.G. SHERO,’” Cohen said, using the initials of the slang term, “original gangster.”

Also, Cohen’s experiences pursuing a doctorate degree in intergenerational identity, traveling abroad and working at a hospice led her to meet many women and understand the struggles they surmounted.

“That changed me,” Cohen said of her 10 years at the hospice. “That kind of changed the trajectory of where I wanted to go in my life.

Cohen interviewed all of the women who appear in the books and relates their personal stories in the first person.

“I take the interviews and then I tell the story in their words,” she said. “I felt it would be more intimate for the reader to feel connected to the woman whose story is being shared as opposed to me telling them the story.”

Also, Cohen pairs each chapter with an artist who provides a drawing or painting inspired by the woman’s story.

The “Artist Gallery” at the 371-page book’s end includes statements by the illustrators about their appreciation of their subjects and approach to painting them.

Cohen’s volumes are self-published on Deckle Way Press. Proceeds from sales go to the S.H.E. Foundation, which Cohen created to “leverage human and financial capital to promote positive change in the lives of women.”

Information on the foundation, the books and how to order them is available at

Volume II features several stories on women located in the San Diego region, including 12-year-old Del Mar resident Mia; Siri, an immigrant from Thailand who has massage spas in Del Mar and La Jolla; and Ania, who runs San Diego Pilates shops in Del Mar, Fairbanks Ranch and San Diego.

Cohen said a representative from a major publishing house expressed interest in producing her work, but wanted her to reframe the pieces in a question-and-answer format.

“I wasn’t willing to compromise,” she said. “I wanted it to be a kitchen-table kind of conversation. To me Q & A is very cold and not as inviting. So I opted to do it my way.

“I’m not looking to be on the New York Times bestseller list and I’m not into it for financial gain. I’m my own book shepherd.”