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Finding Us

This book draws on the life and experiences of a mother’s journey as the parent of an eleven-year-old with a sudden onset of panic disorder. It discusses the role of a primary caregiver and her dilemmas in making complex decisions for the safety of her daughter and those around her. The shame and judgment associated with people suffering from mental health issues, as well as the consequent assumptions and frequent misunderstandings, are draining. The overall impact it has on the patient, and their immediate family members gradually spread to include more people. It stands as a testament to all those going through a similarly difficult phase in life.

Kristen’s memoir gives a voice to the touching story of a mother’s unconditional love, patience, and understanding for her child. But the reality of parenting a child with mental illness is far from simply inspiring. It is filled with hours of dreadful administrative work, relentlessly chasing healthcare personnel, making phone calls, and constantly living with a sense of utter helplessness. The unpredictable nature of the manifestation of mental illnesses and the dire shortage of medical resources for children suffering from them often drives families to despair. In the face of such challenges, Kristen reminds herself time and again that life goes on, and so must we.

What is interesting to note is the disarming candor and complete transparency with which the book has been written. The language used works as a channel of communication and is devoid of unnecessary ornamentation. Yet there are instances of subtle humor that keeps the reader thoroughly engaged. The fundamental aim of the story is to encourage people to be more compassionate and to spread awareness about pediatric mental health issues. Despite the hardships, what remains unforgettable is the family’s indomitable spirit and unfaltering support. To sum it up, in the words of the littlest, they are survivors. The message is delivered loud and clear.

Finding Us by Kristin Rohman Rehkamp is an inspiring, empowering, and eye-opening memoir. This book is a must-read for everyone as you never know who is battling a situation like this. Kristin’s story is one that many parents and caregivers face and often feel alone. Sharing their story lets others know they are not alone and there is still hope.

Pages: 128 | ISBN : 1639885250

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How Many Do You Think Can Survive?

Author Interview
Siamak Vakili Author Interview

Motherhood follows a young physician who finds a child in her bathroom that ignites the motherly desire inside of her. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

I have to say that divorce is more prevalent these days than marriage, and most marriages will lead to divorce soon. In post-revolutionary Iran, fundamental changes have taken place in such areas, which are sometimes very negative. People in many villages and small towns have turned to cities, especially Tehran, the capital. You may know that we started the revolution at a time when satellites, the Internet, mobile phones, and technologies like that did not yet exist. Therefore, the connection of cities with villagers and small towns was very limited and sometimes did not exist at all. Urban life and urbanization could not have any effect on them, but when the revolution started, the villagers rushed in millions to big cities, including Tehran. As a result, they brought along to the cities all their traditions and behaviors. They also tried to make themselves like city people, but with the misconceptions they had about the city and urbanization.

One of these misconceptions was to give up family and ancestral professions and turn to administrative jobs. Administrative jobs require literacy and education, and so by any means necessary they quickly threw themselves into universities. But because it was not easy to enter universities, they founded their own, which are called free universities. These universities take money from you and admit you to the university, and as easily as you enter it, you can leave with a doctorate degree. This greed for obtaining a degree was not unique to men; women also saw freedom in education and degrees. Many people have been able to start their own family businesses with government loans after graduation, and now consider lack of economic independence to be the main reason for their lack of freedom. So the idea now is that if they have economic independence, they will also have freedom.

When men and women both study and have a doctorate degree, and both work from morning till night, it makes sense for them not to find any room for marriage. That is why in today’s Iran fewer people get married and if they do, they have fewer children because not only do they have less time, they have also decided that in order to achieve their goals marriage and children are not a basic necessity of life and that those things make women dependent on men hence hindering their independence and freedom. For this reason, Iran, which was once one of the youngest countries in the world, is becoming one of the oldest today.

Dr. Shahverdi has somehow accepted an arbitrary change of nature, and its very consequence is her lonely and soulless life at the beginning of the story. This story is short but in this short span, it covers many details. So it was very difficult to achieve such a goal in such a short time. However, I tried my best to make it as natural as possible.

Dr. Mitra Shahverdi is an intriguing character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I got to know many women during my student days and then during my artwork years, and Dr. Shahverdi is a collection of some of their most interesting features. I say “the most interesting” because each of these features was very natural in the women I knew. When someone tries to imitate a behavior from others and pretend that it is their own behavior, it can actually be quickly perceived to be fake. But an authentic behavior quickly gives you a good impression. I did my very best to make these behaviors real for Mitra, not imitative and fake, and I think I was able to do so because those who have read the story have not noticed any fake and unnatural behavior in this character.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Everyone has the right to be free and to live freely, whether they are men or women or the whole society, but the first condition is to recognize freedom and its uses and the need for it. What good is freedom to me when I neither recognize freedom nor its uses and I do not even need it?

When we do not recognize something, we do not know its values or applications, and this is what happened in our revolution. The villagers came to the cities when they knew nothing about living there and once they had benefited from their facilities, they tried to make up for many of their shortcomings, and did so in the wrong ways, one of which was to get rid of the bond of marriage. Why should they consider marriage a kind of bond? Before the revolution, marriage was arbitrary in the cities. Two people would meet and get to know each other, and if they also liked one another, they would get engaged and stay that way for some time, and then they would get married if everything went well. Also, getting divorced – not in all cases but in most – was easy. But in the villages, families were the ones who chose wives for their sons and husbands for their daughters, who never saw each other until the night of their marriage. It made sense that such a marriage could not be desired, and now that the villagers had the facilities of the cities, they tried to break this bond. But they did so with extravagance and extremism, i.e. by denying marriage and childbearing, or in other words, by changing their nature. The views were rural but the tools and facilities were urban. They did not know this, and they still do not know that in order to change the situation, they must change their views, and not their nature.

But they came to the cities without changing their views and by the use of urban facilities they tried to show themselves as urban, however not only could they not become urban, but they even lost their rural and urban characteristics, and now they are neither rural nor urban. They are in such a purgatory that millennial traditions and beliefs are shattered and everything loses its original meaning. In this purgatory, nothing has a true meaning, not traditions nor beliefs nor even morality. No one is bound to anything anymore, and that is why all those things that were once considered bad are suddenly allowed, and lies, hypocrisy, theft, and the like increase. Parents who were once greatly respected in their villages and towns are now sent to nursing homes as soon as possible, with the excuse of the difficulties of modern life. They do not know that it is not modern life that has brought this disaster upon them, but the sudden cutting off of the roots and the sudden loss of all those precious things that had shaped their lives and relationships over thousands of years. It is just like suddenly dropping a bunch of polar bears in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. How many do you think can survive?

It is one thing for modern life, with all its features, to quietly reach cities and villages, and it is another thing for villagers and townspeople to suddenly find themselves trapped in the hustle and bustle of modern life; the former can be constructive, but the latter will always be destructive. In this story, I rejected this unnatural method with an unnatural event, which means that Dr. Shahverdi tries to change or deny her nature in an unnatural way, and nature tries to keep that nature alive in her in its own unnatural way. This is not to say that I can believe such events in real life, but when it comes to art, and in this case the story, I believe that these methods can be used.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next book, which I am almost done rewriting, is a science-fiction novel. It is about a spacecraft that for some reason is present in our solar system and has been seen by those on Earth. Humans have not contacted them and want to get to know them, therefore they invite them to come to earth.

This story has three main points. First, the ship’s commander suffers from insomnia, and nonstop events do not allow him to sleep either. Still, he does his best to perform his duties well. The life of this commander is between sleep and wakefulness and the past and the present. Memories of his distant and recent past invade his mind, constantly keeping him separated from the present. One of the memories of this commander is the love he lost in a distant past and now this love has found the chance to be constantly revived in his mind.

The second point is that the characters are just like us, both physically and outwardly, and in terms of inwardness and connections among themselves. I believe that if there are intelligent creatures on other planets and galaxies, they are certainly like us because progress in culture and civilization on the one hand and progress in industry and technology on the other cause space creatures to be like us – albeit with differences in detail. For example, let us consider E.T: He is a space creature with that particular appearance and body and is of course so advanced that he is able to come to earth on a spaceship. Even mentally, he seems much more advanced and evolved than us, because he is able to heal the injured finger of the boy in the film with a light that radiates from his finger. The question is how with such a body (with which he can not walk properly) and such fingers has he managed to produce technology? It is true that today he may use robots and computers, but initially, you have to be able to produce basic technologies yourself. I mean with such fingers how could he put the delicate gears of a watch together and how with such fingers could he have sent a text message to someone else? In one of Arthur C. Clarke’s short stories, an octopus pilots a small spaceship. Can you imagine this octopus producing sophisticated technologies? That is why I imagine if intelligent beings existed in space, they must be something like us. Of course, it goes without saying that if we consider the world of movies, creatures like E.T or Predator can be more attractive than beings like us.

And the third point is that our scientists have long spent billions of dollars to find space creatures and make friendly contact with them. And now that these aliens are in the solar system, even terrestrial politicians are urging them to accept their invitation and come to Earth to get to know each other. These aliens, while in the solar system, have been able to obtain good knowledge about us with the help of their satellites, and now they wonder why the races on Earth have not yet been able to accept each other well and live together peacefully. These races are still killing each other and looting each other’s property. Can they be trusted? What will a race that does not have mercy on itself do to them? Besides, why does a race that does not know its neighbor and tries to eliminate it seek to get acquainted with new races? Can one trust the friendship and relationship with such a race?

The rewriting of this book will be finished soon and I will publish it if the publisher likes the story.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

A young physician who doesn’t desire motherhood lives alone. Until one night, when she finds a naked little boy in her bathroom.

The boy doesn’t remember anything. The woman calls the police. The police can not take him to the station because he is just a little boy, and they cannot find his parents because he does not remember anything. Due to the holiday, the police can not take him to the nursery or anything similar. So the young physician has to care for him till after the holiday. In the few days ahead, she cares for the boy but the questions are: who is this boy? Where has he come from? Why in her bathroom? Is he real or just a sparkle of her passion she has tried to ignore for a long time? And, finally, can this incident wake the motherhood up deep inside her?

In Motherhood, by Siamak Vakili, we experience the universe playing a trick to wake the nature that lies deepest inside, and shows that it’s very hard to escape from who we really are.

No Names to Be Given

Spanning over fifty years, No Names To Be Given is a moving and heartbreaking historical novel about three different women from the 1960s who had to give up their children out of wedlock. Inspired by actual events, it takes the reader through the roller-coaster lives of Becca, Faith, and Sandy – from the day they met in the Magnolia Home Hospital to 25 years later, where their darkest secrets are threatened to be exposed. 

This is author Julia Brewer Daily’s debut novel, but it feels like she’s been writing this story all her life. Perhaps that is the case, given that she was one of those babies adopted from a maternity home hospital during this period. While there were probably mountains of research to write this novel, it would be believable if Daily wrote this story purely from memory and family history.

Her tender prose shows that she’s writing from the heart. Despite that, she tells the story with some emotional distance. The journeys of the three women are told in alternating chapters that are so unflinching that the whole novel almost feels like a documentary. Additionally, this is based on very real traumas. Daily allows the story to shine on its own with the respect it deserves. She writes with an assured and confident voice and isn’t afraid to challenge the reader if it means telling the story the way it’s supposed to be.

It’s clear why Daily chose to alternate the story between chapters. It’s a complicated story, spanning generations, that would not have felt complete if done in a singular manner. The alternating chapters also emphasize the diversity of the characters’ situations. Becca falls in love with an African American man during the height of racism in America; Faith gets sexually assaulted by one of her father’s employees; Sandy becomes involved with a married mobster. If only one of these stories were told, it would not have done any justice for this disparaging historical truth. 

No Names To Be Given is a through-provoking historical fiction novel. Readers will experience the heartbreak and fear these women live through, having their worst moments in life brought back to haunt them. A look into women’s history, adoption, and motherhood from the perspective of women in the 1960s.

Pages: 334 | ASIN : B09B157HLR

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A woman, estranged from her family, is living alone in a small, one-bedroom, apartment. Dr. Mitra Shahverdi has become numb to the fact that her work is an all-consuming addiction. Her non-existent social life has her spending the holidays alone. Until one warm night, Mitra wakes abruptly to a loud bang. A child, naked and scared, is huddled in her bathroom. With no memory of how he got there or who his parents are; and because it is the holidays, the police encourage Mitra to take the child in for a couple of days.

In Siamak Vakili’s novella, Motherhood, we follow the heartwarming journey of a mother who rekindles her love for her five-year-old son. The story is heartwarming and sweet, although the book’s description makes it seem misogynistic at first, once you dive into this heartfelt novella readers will find a beautiful story of a woman coming to terms with a desire for motherhood that was buried inside her.

In the beginning, it is touching to see Mitra warming up to the child so quickly and treating him so affectionately. The author depicts Mitra as someone who does not like children, but with how quickly she falls in love with the boy, it feels like she is lying to herself. I feel like she tries desperately to define herself as someone who hates children, because how else would she be able to justify leaving her child and husband in pursuit of her career. This makes the ending all the more sweeter, and the journey to get there is emotional and captivating.

There is definitely some interesting language used to describe the times when Mitra is coddling the boy, or discovering her passion for him. The description of motherly affection appeared sensual and intimate, “…his trembling body sent a shiver through her body which awakened a pleasant feeling in her … she felt warm inside, the sudden rush of blood turned her face crimson and her skin soaked in a joyful sweat.” The sensuous language is unique to a story about motherhood where I find it is normally found in more provocative novels. All of this presents this fascinating story in a writing style that I have yet to be introduced to.

Motherhood is an emotionally stimulating story that explores parenthood through a unique lens. Readers looking for a short story that feels very different, on a topic not often delved so deeply into, then this is definitely a must-read.

Pages: 72 | ISBN: 1639881891

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The Farthest-Reaching Ball

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Every mother’s journey is unique, however, they all share one thing: heartache. In one way or another, every mother travels down a difficult road as she fights tooth and nail to bring her child to adulthood unscathed. Sandra Bowman, author of The Farthest-Reaching Ball: A Memoir of Motherhood is no stranger to heartache. As the mother of two children, Grant and Parker, Bowman relates the trials and tribulations she overcomes as she raises her children virtually on her own. A mother’s love is nowhere more evident than in Bowman’s explanation of how she comes to understand the needs of her children and the struggle that has permeated her son’s life since an early age.

Sandra Bowman describes virtually every aspect of her journey as a mother in her poignant memoir, The Farthest-Reaching Ball. She details the birth of her sons so vividly that I felt, as the reader, that I attended the delivery. Her emotions surrounding the births are clearly drawn, and any parent who has experienced a particularly difficult birth will appreciate how very frank Bowman is with her details.

As a teacher, I am struck by the battle Bowman and her son, Grant, face as he begins school. His gifts are both amazing and obvious to all, but the obstacles he faces are numerous. Children with talents beyond those of the average child are often overlooked in the regular classroom, and they are not always afforded the opportunity to showcase their skills. Grant is one of those children with a mother on a mission to find a setting that suits her child’s best interests.

When Bowman’s son begins to experience behavior challenges and depression sets in, the author’s challenges multiply. Moreover, Grant’s own slowly-revealed identity crisis begins to consume his thoughts and every interaction. Bowman is more than understanding and is the proverbial mother bear–she is fierce and stops at nothing to make sure her child is content with himself. The author is beyond adept at communicating her feelings and her ever-fluctuating fears regarding Grant’s mental state. His worries are her worries, and his unhappiness is hers to bear.

There doesn’t seem to be a problem Bowman and her son haven’t endured. From excessive weight gain, to depression, to attention deficit disorder, Grant runs the gamut. Bowman is exceptionally open with her own feelings of defeat, despair, and utter helplessness. She is at loss as to how to help her son deal with an identity crisis that threatens to be the end of them all. Mothers of all walks of life can relate to Bowman’s honesty as she admits to her own suicidal thoughts.

I am impressed with Bowman’s forthrightness and openness. She lays out every frustration, worry, and obstacle for readers and shares with them the most intimate of details about her own regrets as a mother. Parents of children struggling with identity crises of all types will appreciate Bowman’s story.


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