Being a parent is hard, raising a family takes patience and making sure you're checking in with your spouse on a daily basis seems impossible at times. These are just a few of the internal thoughts local author Tricia Booker examined while writing her first book, a memoir titled, The Place of Peace and Crickets: how adoption, heartache, and love built a family. A Ponte Vedra Beach resident, an award-winning journalist who now teaches journalism at the University of North Florida, and a longtime off-and-on contributor to Folio Weekly, Booker chatted with us about the struggles and immense joys of international adoption with her family; Bob (the husband), Nico (the son), who has anxious-attachment disorder from his early months living in a hands-off orphanage in Guatemala, and Scout and Neale (the daughters).
Without giving too much away, let's just say that this memoir will make you check yourself-as a human, a parent and an all-around member of our crazy world .
Folio Weekly: You've been a writer for most of your life. How surreal is it to finally have your first book coming out?
Tricia Booker: It's surreal enough that I don't quite believe it. I dreamed last week that when I finally saw a copy, it was printed up like a reporter's notebook with spirals and flipped over the top. And of course, I routinely tell myself it's an enigma, and I won't ever write anything worth a damn again.
The book is a memoir. Were there trepidatious times writing insanely personal things about your and your family's lives?
I never worried about the stuff I wrote about me, or even about Bob, because he's my most stalwart supporter. But I did think about the kids-especially Nico. In the end, I decided that hiding who we are to avoid being stigmatized is exactly what leads to stigmas. I'm a truth-teller-that's just the way I've evolved. Raising a family isn't always pretty and fun. It's often messy and hard and hurtful. My son's attachment disorder should no more stigmatize him than my chronic depression should stigmatize me. Now, I will tell you to that end, I am maniacally protective of my son's right to be who he is. I talk to his teachers, I bring in his dog to make sure the kids see how cool it is, I befriend parents so they know how awesome my son is. I haven't just labeled him and sent him off to navigate the world. I guess you could say that for now, I'm co-captaining his ship.
Did you sit down and talk to your kids and husband about the book to gauge their feelings before writing it?
No, because writing it was just something I had to do. But before I signed the publishing contract, Bob and I sat down with the kids and talked about it. I think they're nervous, but proud. Nico is worried people will think badly about him, but we've talked it through, and I've explained to him that in the end, people will be awed by how insanely brave and strong he has been. And I think people will be helped by reading about our struggles.
The book is published by Twisted Road Publications, a small, independent Florida company. Tell me about finding a publisher and how you chooe Twisted Road was the one.
I did it sort of backwards ... the publisher approached me. One of my writer friends had just published her first novel through Twisted Road (twistedroadpublication.com), and told the publisher, Joan Leggitt, about my blog. She took me to lunch and told me I should write a book, and that she wanted to be the first to read it. We went from there. So I was lucky. Having said that, the publishing world is brutal these days. My friends tell stories about the "encouraging rejections" they've received, and the number of agents they've queried. I might have to deal with that eventually, but I hope not.
Did you have any specific "goals" or "missions" in writing this book, such as awareness of anxious-attachment disorder, international adoption struggles, service dog training, and the like?
Well, I guess my primary objective is to make sure parents know they're not alone when they're struggling with special needs kids. My son's anxious-attachment disorder and conditions like ADHD, depression, bipolar ... these things are invisible disabilities, but they are disabilities all the same. And it's really, really hard. But I also want parents to learn to never give up. We searched for answers for eight years before we figured everything out, and we did a lot wrong in the process. But we never quit on our kid, no matter how discouraged and exhausted we got. We never quit.
Have you been approached by other parents looking into international adoption?
People approach me all the time about it. I tell them to do their research, be patient-although I never was-and to never adopt a child out of guilt or pity. If you adopt a child because you think, "It's the right thing to do," you'll subconsciously expect them to feel grateful for every damn thing you do for them. These kids aren't lucky. It's not lucky to be born to a mother who can't care for you, abandoned, then whisked overseas away from your ethnic culture to be raised in a community of strangers who continually ask you where you're from.