Thursday, February 17, 2011
Chico author's heartbreaking true story
In 1962, the Salvation Army's Booth Memorial Home in inner-city Oakland existed to "house, hide and feed" pregnant teens and unwed mothers. Fifteen-year-old Judi G. found herself there that summer. "I'm horrified my friends will find out where I am and why. Being in trouble doesn't mean the simple words, she's pregnant. It means I had sex, and that is the worst part of the truth, the dirty truth. I feel dirty; I am dirty."
Young Judi's thoughts are captured with poignant clarity by Chico author Judi Loren Grace. "The Third Floor" ($14.99 in paperback from Jetstream Publishing) is her own story, pieced together from letters she sent her lifelong friend, Joanie, that summer of '62. Written in the voice of her fifteen-year-old self, the story traces Judi's growing up years in Porterville and the aftermath of delivering a child. "I have a son. . . . I'm tired and happy and scared. I was in labor for sixty-five hours."
Lyon Books in Chico will hold a book signing and talk by the author on Monday, February 28 at 7:00 p.m.
The book reads like a novel, yet there are historical photographs throughout, an epilogue explaining what happened to those involved, and a selection of Judi's letters to Joanie ("For the past two nights about 12 girls have met in the parlor and we dance. I've learned to do the Continental walk, Texas Hop, Watusi and the Bristol Stomp" . . . "Don't get the idea that I'm having one big blast cause honey I'm not.").
Then there's the agonizing moment of giving up the child. "The new mother stands to get the baby. . . . I stand in the middle of our living room in full sight, kiss him on the top of his head, smell his scent, rub my cheek on his cheek as he sleeps, unaware he is changing mothers; then I look at his face for the last time."
But it isn't the last time. "Secret stuff has a way of oozing out," as therapist Silona Reyman says in the book's resource page. "Sometimes secrets explode. Secret keepers in the world of adoption play a dangerous and heartless game."
Co-owner, with daughter Dana, of Satori Color and Hair Design, Judi Loren Grace has penned a courageous narrative and reclaimed a life.
[Clarification: Author Silona Reyman has clarified that she is the writer of the quotes: “Secret stuff has a way of oozing out. Sometimes secrets explode. Secret keepers in the world of adoption play a dangerous and heartless game.” They are from her book, “Musings of a Ghost Mother.” The text of the original review has been updated.]