I'm incredibly grateful for the reception that Yellow Crocus has received. Agent after agent and editor after editor told me essentially, "Great writing, but nobody wants to read this story." That was both heartening and heartbreaking to hear. The only reason I started writing was to get this story into the world! But I was glad to hear my writing didn't suck :).
I was completely surprised when the writing bug bit me. The idea for the story came to me in 1999 while I was with a group of people talking about Tiger Woods. Someone mentioned that he identifies as much as an Asian person as an African-American person. I thought to myself, "Of course he does, his mother is Asian. You form your core identity in relationship to your primary caregivers. It's a basic part of the attachment process."
Then the image of Lisbeth, a white baby, breastfeeding in the loving arms of Mattie, an enslaved wetnurse came to me in a flash. I thought about what it would be like for Lisbeth to dearly love Mattie and then be taught by society that she wasn't a full person. I wondered how it would feel for Mattie to be forced to abandon Samuel, her own child, in the slave Quarters. Then I imagined what the experience would be like for Miss Anne, the birth mother, to have her own child twist away from her to get into Mattie's arms. These characters started to haunt me. Various scenes popped into my head. Though I had never written anything, I was being called to tell this story. For my fortieth birthday, I began the personal marathon of writing my first novel. I hope you will come to love these characters as much as I have.
Living Right, my second novel, also popped into my head. I imagined a scene in hospital room with a young, Evangelical Christian confiding in his sister that he had attempted suicide because he could not live with the shame of telling his parents that he was gay. I wanted to know what happened to that young man and his family. I hope I've written an honest story with compassion.
Mustard Seed was a natural outgrowth of my interested in what happen to Lisbeth and Mattie after the war. I knew little about the reconstruction period, so it has been interesting--and painful--to learn about the laws and practices that were put in place by the owning class to continue to get low and reduced price labor.
My next novel will jump times and places again. This one starts in southern China in the Guangdong province and the city of Guangzhou--what Westerners called Canton. The main characters family has fallen onto hard time due to war and famine. They arrange a marriage for her to a young widow from California. She travels with him and her two-year old (step) son through Angel Island to the San Francisco Bay Area.
A third novel in the Yellow Crocus series is starting to swirl in my mind and soul....
My experiences and education in developmental psychology provided ample fodder for my stories. I've worked as a preschool teacher and director (Woolsey School!), a birth doula, and as the Director of Children and Family Ministries at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland.
I'm a devout Unitarian Universalist, determined to do my part to add a little more love and justice to our hurting world. My wonderful wife, Rinda, and I live in a small co-housing community in Berkeley, California with two other families. Our amazing young adult children, Kalin and Maya, are kind enough to text, FaceTime and call me on a regular basis. We are delighted to have our goddaughter Wynnie in our household too. I'm blessed to be working full time as a novelist and writer. I love calling/Skyping into bookclubs and classes if my schedule allows it. Feel free to get in touch to arrange via my website where you can also read the blog I wrote a few years ago: http://www.lailaibrahim.com