An Interview with Barbara Jaffe, author of the new book: When will I be good enough? A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing

B.JAFFE BOOK COVERReplacement children have so many things in common, it seems we are all related in a way. Like psychological sisters and brothers. Our issues with identity, feeling unworthy, and never measuring up recur in nearly every story I hear or read from people who have identified themselves as replacement children in some manner.

Usually it’s later in life that individuals turn introspective and begin to evaluate what may have had an impact on the trajectory of their lives thus far. They may seek to understand issues that have gotten in the way of their happiness or success, or led to miscalculations or bad choices. If they begin to see a pattern, they may want to protect their own children from passing on the undercurrent of sadness or anxiety that has plagued them. Sometimes they write about it to try to figure it out, as I did in Replacement Child, and now as Barbara Jaffe has done in her new book, When will I be good enough? A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing. I remember speaking with Barbara while she was in the midst of this journey, and the feeling of sisterhood that inevitably surfaces when I connect with other replacement children.

Her book is available as of January 15, 2017 and I wanted to introduce it, and Barbara Jaffe, to you. It is an in-depth look at her unique yet universal journey as a replacement child that will inspire you with the resilience that comes with understanding.

Here is my interview with Barbara:

J: Why did you write the book?

B: I wrote When Will I Be Good Enough? A Replacement Child’s Journey to Healing because I was compelled to write my story. There was a force within me that could not rest until I wrote my truth. I wrote so that when the words flowed onto the pages, taken out of my soul, that I could put myself back together, which is what I was able to do through the process of writing my story. I also wrote the book with the understanding that other replacement children, and those who have felt ‘less than’ in any area of their lives could benefit from my own journey to wholeness.

J: How long did the book take you from start to finish?

B: The book took me about 4 ½ years, from start to finish. It took me about 2 years to write and about 2 ½ years to edit. As a professor of writing, myself, I teach the iterative process of writing and I have lived it for quite some time, but it was quite an experience!

J: What aspect of writing the book did you find particularly challenging?

B: The most challenging aspect of writing my book was reliving the specific experiences about which I wrote. As I wrote, I felt as if I were experiencing everything once again. Before my various memories were written down, I had them in my mind as fragments, but when they came together on the page, they become so powerful. Reliving such experiences was quite difficult. I also found the chapter on motherhood particularly challenging, for while I am not a daughter any more, I will always be a mother and my journey continues even though my early motherhood days have passed. The memories and the wonder of ‘what-ifs’ continue to leave a powerful imprint on my mind.

J: What surprised you the most about the book writing process?

B: As I mentioned in response to Question 2, the enormous editing process surprised me. I never realized that it could take me as long to edit the book as it did to write it, but I am happy with the outcome and the time spent on the changes and additions. I celebrated when I wrote my last word, and now, of course I smile and laugh at my naiveté of that time when I actually thought my book was completed.

J: What do you hope your readers will gain from reading your book?

B: I hope my readers will gain the understanding or the reminder that despite their challenges in their lives, and we all have them, that they can enjoy fulfilling and amazing lives. I think, at least for me, the key is to acknowledge our difficulties and work through them so that we can let them go—allow them to float up into the ether and replace them with strengths and joys.

J: Did you do any research for your books, or did you write from experience?

B: I did not do any research for my book. I wrote completely from my own experiences and was amazed at my recollection and memories that I did not often talk about but lay dormant and deep within, ready to emerge when I beckoned them.

J: How did you come up with your title?

B: It is interesting that you should ask this question! My working title had always been The Replacement Child and it wasn’t until I finished the last word of my book did I decide to Google the title. It was then that I found a 1964 article on the phenomena written by Cain and Cain, “On Replacing a Child” and then found research and a Psychology Today article by Dr. Abigail Brenner “The Replacement Child: In Search of Self”. I also found a link to your book Replacement Child and I realized that I needed to change my book’s original title. My first editor suggested part of my new title (When Will I Be Good Enough?) since the theme of my life has always been one where I have felt ‘less than.’ I believe that the title of my book addresses this issue and is also one to which many can relate.

J: When did you first get the notion that you might have been a replacement child?

B: I think the first time was when my mother said to me, “If Jeffrey had lived, you wouldn’t have been born.” And when she would say throughout the years that she only wanted two children. I realized in the most basic definition, I was born after Jeffrey because he died. I truly was a replacement child. I did not think about it very much growing up, and it did not overtly define me, but my mother’s inability to deal with her horrific loss over her toddler’s sudden illness and death colored many of our interactions and the way in which I grew to maturity.

J: How have you personally dealt with the complex feelings that may have resulted from writing the book?

B: I was not prepared for the feelings that arose as I wrote and reread my words. Often, it was a very surreal experience, almost as if I was reading another’s words. I was transported, at times, into my long-ago experiences as if I were reacting to them for the first time. I gave myself time to process my sadness over what I grew to understand were my deficits, yet I also learned to give myself credit and rejoice over my inner growth and progress on which I have spent a lifetime.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Have you ever wondered, “When will I be good enough?” Like millions of other women, educator/author Barbara Jaffe was faced with that question, but for her, as a “replacement child,” the barriers to acceptability were higher than for most of us. Barbara, like many others, was born to fill the vacancy left by her little brother, who died at the age of two. This book tells the multitude of readers who have been “replacement children” for many reasons, that they, too, can find hope and healing, as did Barbara.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Barbara Jaffe

Barbara Jaffe completed her B.A. in Linguistics, her M.A. in Applied Linguistics, and her doctorate in Education, all from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Dr. Jaffe is a Tenured Professor of English at El Camino College, in Torrance, California, where she has taught literature as well as all levels of composition. Her focus is helping students find their own, unique writers’ voices and has helped other instructors in their teaching of writing through her national workshops. Barbara received awards for Outstanding Woman of the Year and Distinguished Teacher of the Year at her college. Her doctoral research focused on teacher training for basic writing instructors that combined writing pedagogy with personal success strategies. Her chapter “Changing Perceptions, and Ultimately Practices, of Basic Writing Instructors through the Familia Approach” was published in With Latino/A Students, Lessons Learned at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (SUNY Press, 2007). Reading and writing has always been Barbara’s passions, with a focus on non-fiction and meaningful reflections of life and all its beauty as well as its challenges. Barbara feels to live is to observe and to observe most deeply is to write. Only in the depth of our reflections can we truly learn and grow through any of our perceived limitations.

Besides writing, her passion is teaching about the Holocaust. Barbara received a scholarship to the Center of Advanced Holocaust Studies to study at Washington, D.C.’s Holocaust Museum. In addition, Dr. Jaffe completed a two-year Master Teacher Program with the USC Shoah Foundation, in which she researched and learned how to integrate survivor testimonies within her writing courses.  She is also a docent at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. A fourth generation San Franciscan native, she has spent her adult life living in Los Angeles with her husband, three sons, one grandson, and her very sweet poodle/bichon Emma.

So meaningful to me

butterfliesYou know, it’s hard to figure out what to share here, and I know self promotion is rampant and I am as tired of it as you are, but sometimes I get emails from people who have found my book, #Replacement Child, and I am so moved I want to tell you all about it. Just this morning, I got this email from a woman in Ireland who found my book referenced online. This kind of email is why I wrote the book, and why I am glad I did.

Hi judy,
I have just ordered your book and can’t wait to read it.
For some reason last night when I lay in bed, I started to get upset about childhood issues. I decided to look up a child that comes after death of a sibling. Wow! One click on google and I realise something at the age of 36! I was a replacement child. I always knew my position in the family in that I came after death of a brother. But now suddenly I have an actual position that is recognised! I felt huge relief is all I can say but also amazement at how I did not realise that’s what I was , a replacement child! Feel a bit stupid too. I ordered your book and I am looking forward to reading it. I don’t feel so alone now.   I am married with kids but have always felt alone and different. Why am I telling you this?! Why email you?! I don’t know. You are a stranger who knows what I am feeling somewhat and after last night revelation I had to tell someone 🙂! Thank you,
B. in Ireland

I wrote back and asked her if I could share this, and she wrote:

Thanks for your reply. Yes of course you may use my mail for your blog. I actually feel found judy. It’s actually the single most exciting thing I feel to have happened for me. Struggling all my life with guilt of being on this earth in place of my brother. I don’t blame anyone, I always said, it’s just life , no ones fault. But the pain and unworthy feeling all my life has been crushing. Grateful to you and others for being there on Google , thank you from the bottom of my heart. When others verbalise another’s secret pain it is so liberating. Happy beyond words. Excited for a new chapter in life . Bless you X 

Getting to Know My Mother

MomFav     0069_1Some of us get to know our mothers better after they have passed from this life, through writing about them. It can be one of the benefits of writing a memoir, that we gain a unique insight from mining our life experience through a writerly lens.

Writing, by necessity, makes us take notice of the details surrounding an event or a meaningful moment in our lives. Sometimes the writing helps us see the significance in a conversation, or the scar left by a parent’s action or inaction. This was certainly the case as I wrote the chapters for my memoir Replacement Child. The writing especially let me understand how losing her eldest daughter affected my mother’s life.

By writing the scenes of my mother’s true-life nightmare in the aftermath of a plane crashing into her home, I gained an understanding of the depth of her grief and the struggle she had to go on with her life. And old friend of hers told me of a phone conversation shortly after the accident, in which my mother confided that she just wanted to walk into the ocean. As I wrote about her strength in caring for my surviving sister, through years of surgery and rehabilitation, and then her hopefulness in having another child, I knew more about her intrinsic character than I ever did during her lifetime. And, when I realized how my mother and I both suffered from my father’s indifference, I was relieved to learn the secret of my mother’s affair with a family friend. Glad that she had found someone to show her that kind of love for however long it lasted.

Researching my book, I found myself awed by the evidence of my mother’s strength. As a child, I had no insight into what it took for her to give herself over to loving another child (me), with her new knowledge that the child could be snatched from her without warning; that the world was an arbitrary and dangerous place. Writing about my mother, I gradually realized that the pain of losing a child never goes away. It became a new way of being for her. But, although her pain may have defined her, it never stopped her from giving her love fully, deeply, and completely.

If she were alive today, she would be a wonderful role model for parents who have lost children and go on to have others. Still, she is such a model, if I tell it right.

THE SPITAK QUAKE: Dr. Felix recalls delivering replacement children

The Spitak Quake: Dr. Felix recalls the dark days of delivering ArmeniaNow.com

By Gayane Mkrtchyan
ArmeniaNow reporter                                                                                           
Those women, still in reproductive age, who had no more maternity plans, bore children again to replace the ones they had lost. They were not young, still they 
 

 

An old friend of the family brings a new perspective

I just got a call from Donna’s second grade teacher—my sister’s last teacher before she died when the plane crashed into my family’s home. The teacher, also named Florence like my mom, was only 22 years old when the accident happened. Young and impressionable, she never forgot my sister, who she said was the “sweetest girl.” She remembered my mother fondly, too, as “one wonderful lady.”

After the accident, when my mother was still in the hospital along with my surviving sister Linda, this teacher went to visit. My mother had requested that she come, wanting to know more about what Donna was like in the classroom. I can understand how my mother would have wanted to have just one more parent teacher meeting, hanging on to Donna through her teacher’s more objective sense of her. They chatted for while, and then teacher Florence went to visit Linda in the ICU. She says she will “never forget the smell in that room” of burnt flesh.

They kept in touch. My mother confided to her that, as she took a walk along the river, she thought about how easy it would be to end her own suffering, but knew that she couldn’t do it because her remaining daughter needed her.

“Not long after, your mother was pregnant with you,” Florence told me. “I went to see you when you came home and brought you a small gift. But, I have to say, reading your book, Replacement Child, I think the title should really be Healing Child, because that’s what you did for your family. Linda would have grown up so alone without you. You were just what they all needed.”

I thanked her, as best I could, through unexpected tears.

Getting the Agent and Book Deal After Self-Publishing my Memoir

RC-final-cover-web-size8.jpgPeople have asked me how it happened. How my memoir, Replacement Child, was picked up by a traditional publisher after being self-published two years earlier. It was released in March from Seal Press/Perseus.

What’s Luck Got to Do With it?

Most authors don’t give any credence to luck, but they lie.  Luck has so much to do with everything. It was luck that I decided to put my book up on Barnes & Noble’s PubIt website in the summer of 2011. It was luck that I had met my incredible agent Rita Rosenkranz at a conference four years earlier. It was luck that I had knowledgeable colleagues to confer with to help me navigate my next steps.

Now for the Work

It was not luck that I attended many writer’s conferences prior to self-publishing, to figure out my best course of action. Those conferences gave me a good deal of valuable information about sending out queries, doing proposals and the ins and outs of approaching agents. I knew I wanted an agent and a traditional publisher, but I also knew that as an unknown memoirist, it would be a tough road. I gave myself a year to query agents, send out chapters when requested, to do my best to procure an agent. I wasn’t getting any younger.

When that year was over I had requests for partials and the entire manuscript from 50 agents. My query was working. About half of them showed interest in the book, but were wary of taking it on in the market at the time in 2008. Not a great year for any beginning endeavor. At that point I started looking at self-publishing and decided to form my own imprint to publish my book. I had been in marketing for twenty years and knew how to project manage any creative project. Although, looking back, I didn’t know exactly all of what I was taking on. I hired an editor, a designer and an online marketer to start.

I did a great deal of marketing for Replacement Child in 2009 and 2010 when I first self-published the book. I went on a nationwide book tour at my own expense, visiting bookstores that would have me in towns where I had friends or family to put me up.  It was a great adventure really, and a chance to see people I normally don’t get to visit.  Some of the stops were great, where I was able to get some advance publicity. And some were terrible where only one person showed up for a reading. C’est la vie.

The online blogging community was very receptive and I am very grateful to them for their support with reviews and guest blogs. Review copies were sent out to blog reviewers before the book was released, to bloggers that had reviewed memoirs in the past.

Local media was receptive, and I had articles in my local papers in my town in Connecticut, and did readings at local libraries.  I had several radio interviews, both for blog radio and traditional stations. I joined organizations and took advantage of opportunities to speak and do readings whenever possible. Replacement Child also garnered several awards for self-published books, including a National Indie Excellence Award and a Writer’s Digest award.

By the summer of 2011 I had sold about 2,000 print books and a few hundred ebooks on Amazon. It’s very hard to say which marketing tactic worked best, but all combined produced this modest success. I decided to list the eBook on the Barnes & Noble site in July and was encouraged to see that they had picked it for a featured book of the month. I credit that pick for bringing more awareness to the book.

Surprise, Surprise

Just after I listed the eBook for that last shot, I wound up in the hospital. My book was the farthest thing from my mind that fall, knowing I had to go back for surgery in a few months. It was Christmas when I noticed some weird deposits in my bank account online.  Again, I absolutely forgot that I had arranged direct deposit for the eBook sales. It turned out I was selling between four to five thousand eBooks a month. I wasn’t Grisham, but I was selling many books.

That’s when I contacted Rita Rosenkranz and we talked about whether it made sense to approach a publisher. I was grateful for her wise counsel that helped me think through the decision. In the end, I felt that that there was still a measure of credibility in having a traditional publisher. Reviews come more easily and you are taken more seriously.  That is changing, but I believe it is still widely the case. After considering the pros and cons, I told her I would like to try if she was up for it. She sold it very quickly to Seal Press.

Find more information about Replacement Child.

This post previously appeared on Jane Friedman’s blog, Writing on the Ether.

Reviews and Blog Tour News for Replacement Child – a memoir

April is off to an incredible start, with a new review in Publishers Weekly, and the start of a blog tour.

Check out the review in Publishers Weekly–so exciting!

Nonfiction Review- Replacement Child- A Memoir by Judy L. Mandel. Seal, $16 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58005-476-8

 

 

 

 

And, my blog tour starts today with Women on Writing.

 

Talking About #Memoir: Themes, Messages and Book Marketing

In the last week I’ve been talking a lot about my memoir Replacement Child, the writing process and book marketing.

Booktalk Nation, a new author program from Authors Guild, was kind enough to have me as a guest. The idea is to support authors as well as local bookstores, and I want to thank The Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington, CT for sponsoring my talk and agreeing to send out signed copies of Replacement Child. Also, a big thank you to Karen Holt, who interviewed me for the talk.

Booktalk Nation Interview

 

Women’s Memoirs, who have been my supporters and cheerleaders for several years now, interviewed me last week as well. We talked about writing memoir in terms of theme and message, and also about publishing and book marketing. Thanks to Kendra Bonnett for a great talk.

Women’s Memoirs: Taking Your Memoir Mainstream

 

Thanks to everyone who tunes in and follows my events and interviews!

 

 

Upcoming Events and Talks About Replacement Child – a #memoir

Judy L. Mandel
Judy L. Mandel

I am excited to be reaching out to more people at some events and talks in the coming weeks. I hope you can join me!

March 12, 2013: Connecticut Press ClubPanel Discussion: Getting a Book Deal.Tickets available at:    www.ctpressclub.com‘m excited to be reaching out to more people through interviews and bookstore events in the coming week. Hope you can join me!

March 14, 2013, 6:00 PM: UCONN Bookstore, 2075 Hillside Road, Storrs Mansfield, CT Click here for more details.

March 18, 2013, 7:00 PM ET Booktalk Nation – Online video interview and live Q&A. Author signed copies of the book available for purchase. For more information and to register click here.

March 23, 2013, 2:00 PM: Barnes & Noble, Book Talk, Reading and Book Signing. Blueback Square, 60 Isham Road, West Hartford, CT. Click here for directions.

March 25, 2013: 7:00 PM, Stony Brook University Manhattan, Book Launch Celebration, 101 East 27th Street & Park Ave.

 

On #Replacement Child, Writing, and Hearing Your #Memoir Story

Wildflowers 2In the past week, I’ve been contacted by people who were touched by my book, Replacement Child, my writing here and on my Psychology Today blog. Some are replacement children, and we seem like long lost relatives when we compare notes. Some have had relatives who were challenged physically, or disfigured in some way. A brother, a father, a sister. Some are struggling to dig up memories that illuminate their own memoirs.

I am grateful for these connections for many reasons. First, for the growing community of replacement children that seems to be springing up like multi-colored wildflowers; distinctly separate but of the same seed. We talk about our families and at some point in the conversation there is always one “aha” in our experience that we share so completely that I get goose bumps. A mother’s overprotection, a father’s rejection, a dream un-pursued, a love lost to indiscretion or withdrawal.

People who are the “other” in their family, for whatever reason have a great deal in common. An adopted child, now an adult, tells me she still feels that otherness in her life. And, those of us who assign ourselves as protector of a loved one who is different – whether physically or mentally, know that we can’t always lay the reeds down flat in the grass for them to pass unscathed. We, nevertheless, keep imagining how we could have done a better job at it.

The writers of memoir are all wrestling with synapses of memory. Molding and ordering disjointed scenes into a sculpture that reflects their journey. Discovering where the journey began and where it has led is sometimes the function of their writing, as it was for me. I offer some tips to anyone who asks, things that worked for me while writing Replacement Child. But, always with the caveat that everyone needs to find their own method. While some writers need a strict schedule, others recoil at that discipline. Many like outlines; others would rather put a pin in their eye. One constant, I believe, is to have other eyes evaluate the work and give advice. I’ll stick to that one.

As I start to have some book related appearances in the coming months, I am looking forward to talking to more of you who relate to my story, or are writing your own. Come talk to me if you are in the audience at any of these conferences or bookstore events coming up. Or write to me here. I promise you I am interested.