Sunday, February 21, 2016
What does it feel like to be a foster kid? Stirling City writer M. Elizabeth Schaefer knows first-hand; according to her website (melizabethschaefer-author.com) she spent most of her teen years in foster care. It was a world of uncertainty, one also experienced by the heroine of her first novel.
“Mattie Celi” ($12.95 in paperback from Outskirts Press) is a 14-year-old growing up in Simi Valley, California in 2006 with three brothers and a younger sister. Her stepfather is an alcoholic, physically battering his wife and children and sexually abusing her, and her mother fails to protect her family from what Mattie calls “the old man” (never dignifying him with a name).
The story is told by Mattie herself (whose last name is pronounced “Chellie”). She is befriended by her neighbor, Mrs. Outen, and by Mrs. Astor from Social Services. They remain her lifeline.
Mattie finds herself in a series of foster homes. Though statistically at high risk, something inside her aspires to surmount the odds. Leaving the Savoys, she reflects:
“I’m headed to foster home number four. I wondered what it was going to be like to be the only kid in a big house. I wanted to talk to Mrs. Astor about my feelings of depression. I wanted to tell her that I blew up at the Savoys, but she was in a hurry, as usual. I felt numb. I hoped Mrs. McNeedy wouldn’t be as weird as she looked.” But she is.
Eventually Mattie is fostered by the Changs, and she and their daughter become fast friends. By her eighteenth birthday, when Mattie is ready to move out on her own, she realizes her intense “anger waned after forgiving the old man, my real father, and most of all, my mother.” Rather than feel “there’s goes another piece of my life” as she leaves each foster home, now there is hope, the “start to a new piece of my life!”
The author will be interviewed by Nancy Wiegman on Nancy’s Bookshelf this Friday, February 26, at 10:00 a.m. on North State Public Radio, 91.7 FM or mynspr.org. She will be signing books at Barnes and Noble in Chico this Saturday at 2:00 p.m.