My special guest today, Joan Steinau Lester, recently published her second novel, Mama’s Child. She describes writing as “totally involving, pleasurable, existing only for itself, not the end product.… [W]writing is an activity that fully absorbs me. When I finish, I’m flushed with pleasure.”
Mama’s Child traces the journey of an idealistic young white woman who traveled to the American South as a civil rights worker, fell in love with an African American man, and started a family in San Francisco, a liberal city sure to embrace such a couple — except when it didn’t. Tensions tore their marriage apart when their son and daughter were still young. For Ruby, their biracial daughter, her parents’ divorce further destabilized her already challenged sense of self —- “Am I black or white?” she must ask herself. “Where do I belong?” Is she her father’s daughter alone? As the years pass, the chasm between them widens, even as the mother attempts to hold on to the emotional chord that binds them. It isn’t until Ruby becomes a wife and mother that she begins to
develop compassion and understanding for the many ways that her own mother’s love transcended race and questions of identity.
Hearing Fictional Voices
Creating fictional characters is one of the most mysterious aspects of the enigmatic activity we call creative writing. Here I sit, the author of a novel, imagining beings who have never really lived. Often they are composites of many people I’ve known, fused with bits of my own experience or personality; but ultimately they become their own people, whose voices I hear.