|Arisha and mango ice cream|
When I returned to Chicago, I was sucked into the maelstrom of pre-publication for my novel, A Free, Unsullied Land, forthcoming from Fomite Press. I arranged the launch October 16, 7:30 pm at Women and Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago, and marveled at the bumpy journey the book had made from conception to launch.
|The Crack between the Worlds|
Three years earlier, my mother had died, and I'd acquired correspondence from her youth. In those pages I met a young woman I'd never known. She was smart, irreverent, in love with poetry and word-play, but also fragile, oppressed by her own dominating mother and dangerously affectionate father. The mother I knew growing up had already sacrificed that young girl's saucy daring for stability, and she'd raised me and my sister with calm care. Reading the letters I wanted to give that girl a chance to enter into the struggles of her time, find her voice and speak her mind, to do the things my real mother never dared. In Tepoztlan I tried out moments, scenes and feelings, searching for the ones that rang a bell. I ended up with text like scrambling eggs, lumps of specificity barely taking shape in a thick and formless muck.
|Arisha and Maggie in the back yard, Klagenfurt|
Flying back from Austria less than a week ago, I only wished Arisha could have joined the jubilant children at the Easter Mass, dancing in the aisles and on the stage at the back of the gym. But I can take a page from her book of adventures, where Europa Park is no less exciting in her room than in the real world. For the distance between what could have and was is precisely what first lured me to my mother's letters and now fills the pages of my novel.
|Waterworks in Europa Park, Klagenfurt, where children can build damns, pump water, create and empty lakes|