March 8th, 2013
I forget exactly how our connection came about, but we realized we had a bunch of stuff in common, from places we had lived (Chicago, the Bay Area, D.C.), to sons named Jake, to the fact that we both have a memoir on submission right now through our respective agents.
If it’s possible to hit it off over social media, Susan and I did – and happily, in a couple of weeks we are going to meet in person when she comes to Washington on a business trip!
Susan invited me to take part in The Next Big Thing, a “blog chain” in which writers interview themselves about a new project they’re working on. After my answers to the set questions, I’ll tell you about another author I tagged to keep the chain going.
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
It’s ADOPTSHOCK: One Mother’s Journey through Post-Adoption Depression.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Well, I lived it. My husband Ari and I adopted our son Jake from South Korea when he was almost nine months old (he will be 6 in June). About a month after we got home, I suffered a bout of depression.
I think this happened for several reasons. One, the gap between my rose-colored fantasies about what life with new baby would be like versus the on-the-ground reality of caring for a child 24/7 was enormous. It was much harder than I had thought it would be, for a raft of reasons. Two, our son had a bunch of health problems right off the bat, some mundane, some much scarier, and Ari and I were new and clueless parents with no sense of perspective as to what really constituted a serious problem and what would pass within a couple of hours. Everything felt like a fire drill, and nobody in this house was getting adequate sleep in those early months. Incidentally, there are lots of connections between sleep - or lack thereof - and depression. Here’s some more information about that.
Three, and more existentially, I began to wonder if I was up to the job of parenting this wonderful baby – who had no say in being adopted by us, who had a birth mother and a foster mother back in Korea who loved him, who will deal with racism as he grows in a way I as a Caucasian woman have not had to face. All of these things added up, overwhelmed me, and triggered my first-ever depressive episode.
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a memoir.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My stars, that is a really cool question. I guess I’d like Laura Linney to play me and Liev Schrieber to be Ari. I’m not choosing these guys because I think we look like them, by the way, though Ari does bear a passing resemblance to Liev. It’s more because they are both such smart, nuanced actors.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Adoptive mom overcomes stunningly unexpected depression and lurches into motherhood of smart, handsome, funny little boy.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’s represented by Sorche Fairbank of Fairbank Literary Representation.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
That’s a work in progress. I have about 100-plus solid edited pages to date that Sorche and I have been polishing over the last year.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Well, I loved No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, by Melissa Fay Greene. She experienced post-adoption depression after bringing home her son born in Bulgaria. I also found Brooke Shields’ memoir of postpartum depression, Down Came the Rain, to be a very supportive and validating book.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Like I said, this is my story of how an event I expected to be more or less uniformly positive – bringing home our long-awaited son – was much, much more complex than I originally realized. My roles as a writer, mother, woman, wife, friend – some well established, some brand new – were tested and reshaped across the board, in ways I never anticipated. Learning to be a mom did not come easily to me. My expectations were unrealistically high, but the long wait to adopt - which is only getting longer, as countries like South Korea seek to promote domestic adoption, and other factors come into play - gave me lots of time to spin some crazy fantasies about what motherhood would be like. (Scary Mommy, like Susan a fun Tweeter to follow, has a book coming out about this very thing.)
What’s more, learning to look at adoption in a more nuanced way is a process that continues to this day. As our son grows and wants to know more about his origins, it will be up to me and his dad to support him in any way we can.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
This is not going to be a depressing book about depression. It’s going to contain humor and poignancy and love. It’s going to help people understand more about international adoption and about the inherent losses and gains in any adoption. It’s going to try to take a whack at the stigma that continues to surround depression, an illness that afflicts a huge number of people around the globe and one that is readily treatable, but also one that often goes undiagnosed.
Now, here’s my first “taggee,” if that’s a word: Chuck McCutcheon, a political reporter and writer who lives a few doors down from me on Capitol Hill. Chuck’s also making a name for himself writing about stuff as scary as politics, if not moreso: climate change and nuclear waste. Here’s his set of Next Big Thing answers!
Here is another writer I’m thrilled to know (we share an agent): Jessica Handler (here is her Twitter). Here’re her Next Big Thing answers, and lastly, here is a link to her forthcoming book, about coping with grief and loss by writing about it.
More authors and writers to come soon…