I haven’t done any book events through December and January, as I wanted time to enjoy the holidays and get ready for my trip to Panama. But a friend with whom I had lunch this week told me she bought Good Daughter, Good Mother on Amazon and read it. She found the writing brave — which I take as quite the accolade.
Dawn and I both grew up in Kearny, New Jersey, and went to the Kearny Public Schools. Our lives otherwise were very different. Dawn is African American; I am Caucasian. She had a warm and loving relationship with her mother; my relationship with Margaret was strained. Dawn lived in the same home for most of her upbringing, on Brighton Avenue which was one of the few streets in town where blacks were allowed to own property. When I filled out my application for Peace Corps, at age 21, I had to list all previous addresses: there were 18, all but one in Kearny. Dawn went into politics, became a state legislator here in Washington. I went into the Peace Corps, then education, then entrepreneurial business. We are mothers and grandmothers. She is married; I am widowed. We didn’t really know each other in high school, but were brought together here in Seattle by a third high school friend, Connie, who knew us both.
Dawn loved the stories of Minga and Gloria, as everyone does. She related especially strongly to the chapter about my finding Jerry dead upon my return from a business trip. She found her adult stepson, age 53, under similar circumstances. That was the chapter she especially found brave.
Age can do a lot of things, but who knew age could make you brave? The memoir took all of my life to write — two years of actually putting my fingers to the computer — and it’s a much more open and honest and in-depth story than I could have managed as a younger woman.
The book is selling slowly, as befits a memoir from someone who is not famous. But the engagement between me as author and those readers who choose to share their experience of the book is incredibly rich. I couldn’t ask for a more tangible reward.