I was raised in a family with divergent views on religion and politics, but rich in Southern storytelling humor, that softened conflict and captured my imagination. Stories fed my wanderlust to see the United States and beyond. I’ve lived in California, Michigan, Missouri, Rhode Island, Washington and overseas. Wandering back roads and city neighborhoods away from tourist hot spots still sparks my curiosity and supports my belief in the basic goodness of humankind. My husband and I now live on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, and have two grown children nearby, but the low country of South Carolina always pulls me back for renewal.
In the first decade of my career as a psychotherapist, I worked in underserved communities, in hospital settings and in private practice. In my fortieth year my husband was offered an engineering job in Santiago, Chile. Friends thought we were crazy to leave our safe, comfortable life to learn Spanish at midlife and stand out as the tall, pale, foreigners in our new neighborhood. It was a tough beginning but being an expatriate family was a life changing adventure. I worked for the US State Department and consulted to a group of Chilean psychologists. Our teenage children attended a bilingual school. Returning to the United States, I specialized in psychotherapy with multicultural clients, teaching and cross-cultural training, and consulted to multinational companies including The Boeing Company.
My colleague, Rhoda Berlin and I co-authored Mixed Blessings: A Guide to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships, published in 2013. Kirkus Reviews called the book “…Required reading for anyone who counsels or is part of a multicultural relationship…”. Kirkus Review.
Exiled South, a story that percolated in my imagination for years, is my first novel.
Why I Wrote Exiled South
I have always been moved by common people doing uncommon deeds that uplift us, unite us, and transform our differences.
Around the dinner table, my grandmama told stories of women, who used faith and creative initiative to save their families from starvation during the Civil war and survived humiliation by Federal Troops when Charleston fell. We grandchildren sat perched on the edge of our seats and begged for more while she spun her magic tales. None of us bothered to fact check the details. Her stories, told in the old fashion Southern way, were just too delicious to mess with.
As an adult visiting Charleston, I walked the streets my ancestors had, gathering civilian Civil War stories from people with a variety of ethnicities and walks of life. Fortunately, present-day librarians are happy to assist someone interested in exploring both the glory stories and the ugly ones of racism and classism.
While living in Chile years ago, I visited Brazil for the first time. I heard about former Confederates who fled the American South in the late 1860’s. The seeds of Exiled South were planted. I returned later to deeply explore the multiethnic Confederado story.
It seems my love of stories has been a circle from a childhood listening to grandmama, through my career as a psychotherapist to the present day. Now more than ever, I believe in the power of stories to transform our experience, reconcile with painful mistakes, and enter into healing conversations.