Exclusive Interview With Author "Lea Rachel"
Adoption Across Races: Author Lea Rachel Explores Inter-Racial Adoption in New Narrative Memoir, Seeking Forgiveness.
“Seeking Forgiveness,” tells the story of interracial adoption in the US today, from the perspective of a white mother who adopts a Black son, and finds she has no idea what she is doing. The story begins when Rachel's son Miles is arrested by the police in the middle of the night. Over the next eight hours, as Rachel tried to get her son out of detention, she recounts their life together and the events that led them to this point. As a result, Rachel struggles with her competence as a mother, questions the viability of inter-racial adoption, and worries that her son will never forgive her the mistakes she has made as his adoptive mother
Since Lea was a young girl she has always been writing. In college, she majored in creative writing at The University of Michigan, however, fearing starvation (as well as, perhaps, literary rejection) Lea switched her major to economics, and over the next ten years pursued a PhD in that subject.
Currently she is a professor at The University of Missouri-St. Louis and in her free time continues to work on her writing. Lea resides in St. Louis Missouri and is looking forward to sharing her latest novel with everyone.
Continue reading for an exclusive interview.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I was born in Detroit, Michigan to a mixed-religious family – my father was a Maryknoll priest and my mother a Sephardic Jew. They met in college at the University of Detroit, married quickly, and raised my sister and I in a culturally rich atmosphere where books and art were a part of every aspect of our lives. I can still remember reading Nancy Drew mystery books while wearing my father’s old clerical shirts after lighting Shabbat candles on a Friday night. I published my first short stories while in college at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and continued writing fiction, as well as non-fiction, throughout graduate school. Today I am a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and continue to write and publish while raising my own unique, inter-racial family.
Which authors have most influenced you?
As a child I couldn’t get enough of the Russian classics, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Tolstoy and Turgenev. I still love a well-developed protagonist who has difficulty getting outside of his or her head. Today, I tend to read more modern authors, a few favorites of which include Ann Patchett, Toni Morrison, Michael Cunningham, Joy McCullough, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Carson McCullers, and Zora Neale Hurston.
Is Seeking Forgiveness your first book?
No. My first published book is The Other Shakespeare, a historical fiction novel that imagines the life of William Shakespeare, had he been born a woman. Spoiler: it doesn’t end well. The good news is that Seeking Forgiveness, while similarly investigating themes of representation and breaking down social barriers, is a bit more uplifting and hopeful.
It’s a mixture of fact and fiction, how would you describe your new book?
What was your impetus for writing the book?
Seeking Forgiveness is a semi-autobiographical narrative memoir. Quite a number of the episodes and vignettes described in the novel happened in my own life, as a white mother raising a Black son in America today. But there are fictional elements embedded throughout the story in order to protect the privacy of my adopted son. Seeking Forgiveness is written from the mother’s perspective and is primarily about motherhood itself, so while my son and our life together were the inspiration for much of the novel, my son’s back story is fictionalized to protect his privacy. Who knows, maybe one day he will want to write his own story about growing up in St. Louis, from his perspective!
Your book focuses on the journey of interracial adoption. What do you hope readers will take away from it?
While a growing trend, interracial adoption is still relatively unique in the world today. As such, I get many, many questions about it, from friends, strangers, even other family members. I hope readers of this book leave with a better understanding of what it is like to raise an interracial family in our current environment – the joy of it, but also the difficulties and discrimination that can come with it. I hope my readers finish Seeking Forgiveness with an enhanced perspectives on this one aspect of race in America today.
Why did you choose that title?
I have come to believe that the hardest part of motherhood is never knowing if you are doing it right or not. There is no answer key or definitive guidebook where you can turn to a specific page and look up when a child should receive their first phone, how they should be punished when they steal a pack of gum, or what response to give when they tell you they hate their life. I was aware from the very beginning of my motherhood journey that interracial adoption would be uniquely complex, that it would add additional questions, trials, and tribulations to the experience beyond traditional motherhood. The title reflects the doubt and worry that many mothers feel as they navigate the journey of motherhood, doing the very best that they can, but having no idea if it is good enough.
Are you currently working on other projects?
I am always writing – it is like therapy for me, and even when I write fiction, the writing helps me process things that are going on in my own life. I cannot imagine waking up in the morning and not immediately sitting down at my desk with a cup of coffee by my side, and a pad of paper in front of me. After writing four novels in a row, I am currently taking a break from longer works and editing a few short stories instead. I am enjoying the return to a shorter form before I will, most likely, return to novel writing again.
For more information on Lea and her new memoir please visit http://www.learachel.com/main/