Wednesday, January 31, 2024

#Bookreview of Journey to Paradise: A Memoir

Journey to Paradise: A Memoir

By: Sarah Jolicoeur
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: January 4, 2024
ISBN: 979-8891320703
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: January 29, 2024
Writer Sarah Jolicoeur has created a memoir that will evoke an array of feelings, from curiosity and enchantment to enlightenment, as she details her deeply personal experience of shared love based on acceptance of life’s often unwritten rules in her debut work, Journey to Paradise: A Memoir.
Jolicoeur’s parents raised her and her two sisters with discipline and structure. In high school, Sarah lost her virginity in a brief encounter with an older boy and once she graduated, she moved in with another girl and began to study, work, and party. She soon met someone she would marry – what Jolicoeur depicts as “the typical gay-girl-meets-straight-girl-at-work lesbian love story.” One early challenge for the couple was the difficulty in finding a pleasant venue for their same-sex wedding; there was tension with the author’s parents concerning the relationship; and the new wife, though an alluring companion, was not prepared to be faithful. After seven years, both knew it was time to move on.
Jolicoeur set a serious goal – physical fitness involving weight loss. It was at her gym that she met Lovie -the man who would change her life. Tall, handsome, a great talker, Lovie soon admitted her into his realm of what she learned, over the years, to accept and fully appreciate – the complex web known as polyamory. Lovie had a wife, Pandora, and made it clear from the start that he was not the monogamous male that many women seek. To make a life with him, she must accept Pandora – and others – into a multi-coupling universe. This became for the author a lifestyle, a love-style that she gradually contentedly accepted. Her book opens with the declaration that her story is one that once would have shocked her, then follows this declaration with an almost minute-to-minute chronology of her struggle for self-esteem, her innate quest for adventure, and the loves she still shares.
Jolicoeur has developed skills as a Corporate Life Coach, giving her scope for outreach to others who may face some of the situations she has encountered. Her composition, in addition to revealing her undeniable writing talent, attracts for its array of honest disclosure, enjoyable humor, painful distress, and genuine affection. She describes her pairing with Lovie now as a “Poly and Swinging lifestyle,” and it is apparent that she wishes to convey her polyamorous explorations to a wide, general audience.
Quill says: Jolicoeur’s unusual path, set forth in this engaging memoir, can provide guidance and hope to others who long to achieve what she has accepted and embraced – a unique, daring, and love-imbued lifestyle.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

#Bookreview of Born Mistakes by Mika Mathews

Born Mistakes

By: Mika Mathews
Publication Date: April 29, 2023
ASIN: B0C4147R8P
Reviewed by: Tripti Kandari
Review Date: January 23, 2024
Born Mistakes by Mika Mathews is a poignant journey of two teenagers toward self-dependency and the formation of an unbreakable bond that defies traditional notions of kinship.
Davis’s life as a teenager takes an unexpected turn when he becomes a single parent out of wedlock. Davis is on his own without the protection of a marital framework or the safety net of parental support, bearing the tag of 'curse' on his family. While he struggles with the problems of teenage fatherhood and making an adequate living, Deven emerges as an autonomous force with a complex past marred by an abusive family. As the universe conspires to bring these two young individuals together, unbeknownst to them, the chance encounter will set the stage for a harmonious blend of their shared aspirations, creating fresh prospects and planting the seed of hope...
Mathews’ reluctance to romanticize the experience of young fatherhood is a laudable part of the book. There is also a sense of sincerity in the portrayal of Deven's journey – transitioning from an abused child to a foster child and eventually becoming an independent individual. The story adeptly captures the impact of past trauma by illustrating how Deven still bears the scars of his past in the form of mental health concerns. The description of challenges the characters face is realistic, enabling readers to identify with them and their trials in life.
The author has refrained from mentioning the story's setting. The absence of context portrays the characters' stories as indicative of universal experiences. The ambiguity of the setting also encourages readers to appreciate the universality of the stories and their struggles as youths caught up in a fateful destiny.
Born Mistakes is not a narrative about struggling against the natural course of life’s events. It is about how one makes the most of one's situation, regardless of the difficulties that life presents. For youngsters, it serves as a mirror of complexity, demonstrating that mistakes are inevitable and encouraging them to make educated decisions. The two teenagers' journey serves as a reminder that life's obstacles are not insurmountable, and perseverance is the key that allows for transformation and the quest for a better life.
The story also underscores the value of communication between parents and children. It emphasizes the significance of understanding and support, encouraging parents to create an environment in which children feel comfortable sharing their issues and feelings. Mathews' work is a departure from his regular field of magic and fantasy. It brilliantly illustrates the tremendous potential that the author holds in writing for young adults, inspiring future works to dive deeper into the complexity of characters' minds.
Quill says: Born Mistakes offers a glimpse into the delicate dance of life adversity and inner strength, emphasizing the transformational power of a helping hand toward positive change.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

#AuthorInterview with Rod Taylor, author of The Count

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Rod Taylor, author of The Count.
FQ: Before we get started, I want to thank you for writing a fantastic novel, and I would like to ask a few questions about you before diving into the story. I was fascinated to learn you started writing this book in the 1980s and have just now published it. It’s fascinating how relevant the storyline is in today’s climate. Share your moment when you realized now is the time to write The Count and was there a particular trigger that ignited your fire to do so?
TAYLOR: I found the draft paperwork, some of it handwritten, and realised it had to be finished. I asked my granddaughter to type out the handwritten pages, and I sat down to complete the story. As I worked through the pages I realised how relevant it could be to the current international climate.
FQ: You referenced you "...developed and ran several exciting businesses..." What was the most exciting and why this one?
TAYLOR: My wife and I ran several small, but interesting businesses, and provided working jobs to struggling characters. We opened and ran the first ‘Body Shops’ in London. We also ran restaurants, beauty rooms, and massage parlours. The most exciting and satisfying one, although never the most profitable one, was an ‘indoor adventure playground’ in a warehouse under the W10 motorway over London., called BRAMLEY’S BIG ADVENTURE. We felt we were giving back something to the community instead of always taking away. It was so satisfying to see children having exciting fun while their parents could relax and have a cup of tea.
FQ: I was fascinated to learn about the Cossacks and am curious what nugget was the most intriguing for you to learn?
TAYLOR: It was exciting to uncover a culture, a relatively unknown ‘tribe,’ with interesting stories, who had been hidden away for so long.
FQ: I thoroughly enjoyed the character you developed in Nick Cameron. In many respects, he is portrayed as (virtually) the only honest guy in banking. When he attempts to expose the improprieties in the banking practices, the ‘villains’ immediately shift to damage control. Is there a time in your life when you witnessed a blatant wrong and you attempted to correct it; only to be shut down?
TAYLOR: There were many occasions when I was expected to act in a way that I felt was morally incorrect, and many times I saw others proceed with pride in activities that should have been closed down.
FQ: You encapsulated the persona of character Peter Kavanagh, the Ambassador, beautifully, "...built his fortune against all odds in the thirties, multiplied it as a patriot through the war, and consolidated and achieved respectability in the fifties and sixties. Now, as an extremely wealthy and influential member of the American establishment, he was achieving the ultimate recognition, the equivalent of a title in ‘Britain. Nick secretly believed that all American billionaires, regardless of industry, had made their pile through bootlegging, extortion, or exploitation..." Boom! That was an epic scene, and I immediately started mentally checking off many American politicians and businessmen in today’s world after reading it. Was this a passage that took some massaging on your part (or did it write itself for you)?
TAYLOR: I had met many of the examples of the characters depicted. So the passage pretty well wrote itself.
FQ: Without too much of a spoiler, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough when Nick finally puts his mission to seek revenge into play. You were incredibly precise and detailed every facet of his plan. Was this a difficult part of the story to write?
TAYLOR: Yes, it was difficult. And even now I am not satisfied. I still think there is too little action, and too little revenge.
FQ: In line with my previous question, I envisioned a wall of post-its and lines systematically connecting each leg of the revenge and how it would play out. What was your process in nailing it with such great writing?
TAYLOR: All I know is that I wanted revenge, and wanted those who had taken advantage to meet some form of justice.
FQ: In a world full of unrest, if you were asked to impart the penultimate formula of how we can all get along, what would be your opening statement?
TAYLOR: Before seeking ‘justice,’ think ‘How can I help?’
FQ: There is so much more to cover in discussing this fantastic story, but I’m afraid 100 questions is far too many to ask. I want to thank you for the great entertainment captured between the covers of The Count and have to ask: Is there another book in development? If so, are you able to share?
TAYLOR: There is another book in development, but it still has a very long way to go. So don’t keep a gap open on your bookshelf just yet.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

#AuthorInterview with Michael Pronko, author of Shitamachi Scam

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Michael Pronko, author of Shitamachi Scam (Detective Hiroshi Series, Book 6).

FQ: It is obvious that your affinity for Tokyo and the Japanese culture runs deep, as evidenced not only in your books but in your own personal life, having lived there for 20 years. Can you describe how this love affair with all things Japan began for you?

PRONKO: I had a set of flash cards for learning Japanese that my father had. He was stationed in Japan for a while working in an army hospital and brought back other things, too, like geta wooden sandals. So maybe that was part of it. But what really grabbed me were Japanese films, Akira Kurosawa and others, which I saw at college. I loved reading about Zen as a philosophy major. It was so different from western thinking. I had Japanese friends at graduate school and one of them said I could find a job easily in Tokyo. So, I went. I read a lot of novels translated into English. So, I’m not sure exactly when it began. But I like a lot of western things, too. I love the culture and literature of France, and love traveling in many different countries. But something about Japan really grabbed me. I’m not sure “love affair” is the right phrase, though, as there are many things I really don’t like here—the conservatism, the rigid rule-following, the low expectations people often have. So, maybe “coming-to-terms-with-it” might be a better phrase? 

FQ: PRONKO: In your bio, you share that you have one more novel planned for Detective Hiroshi to bring the Tokyo-based mystery series to a close. What can you share with your readers about this long-anticipated finale of Detective Hiroshi?

PRONKO: Maybe I wrote it would be the finale on something before, but now that I’m onto the sixth one, I think I’ll continue for several more. So, finale or not, the next novel in the series will focus on young people studying for college entrance exams. It’s probably the most pressured time of people’s lives in Japan, so it’s a very serious time in Japan. Some people feel one day of testing decides their entire lives. I also have in mind one or two standalones with Sakaguchi, the ex-sumo wrestler detective, and a prequel with Takamatsu, the do-what-works detective in mind as well. 

FQ: When do you anticipate the final book to conclude the Detective Hiroshi series will be released? Can you share where you currently are in the writing process for this novel?

PRONKO: The next novel will be released sometime in 2024. I’m not sure yet as I always hope to have more control over the writing process but usually don’t. So, I have to follow around the characters, the research, the walking around the city before I can pull it into shape. At the moment I have the basic outline and the characters. Now, I need time. 

FQ: During your career as a professor, you have taught English, American Literature, and American film, music and art. Which course has been your favorite to teach and why?

Author Michael Pronko

PRONKO: I like all of them. I have a free hand with the content, as long as it works with students’ English level, so I never feel like I’m forced to teach something I don’t like. But I do have to compromise as some works are too violent, disturbing, or just plain hard language for students. But I really like to hear students’ reactions to the films and novels a lot. I’m always pleased to hear what students say about music, which they love but have never studied formally, and art, which they have never studied at all. I always have a sense of discovering something new together with them. I love witnessing the transformative power of those works. I don’t always know what readers of my novels think or feel, but with students they present on their reactions, so it’s fascinating. 

FQ: You run a website entitled Jazz in Japan. Can you describe how this originated and what its mission is?

PRONKO: I wrote a column about jazz for The Japan Times and for another online website for years, but finally decided I wanted more freedom in content and approach, so I set up my own site with some of those old articles, and then plenty of new ones. The other publications don’t have room for an 1,800 word interview, for example, but my website can accommodate that easily. I’ve been running that for many years now and really enjoy it. I’ve also written about Japanese jazz for academic works. But my mission is to convey how creative, intense, and unique jazz is in Japan. I’m a failed musician, but love to listen and write about it. 

FQ: You share that you received an offer to teach in Beijing shortly after earning your MA in Education. Can you explain how this came about?

PRONKO: That was back in typewriter and envelopes with stamps days. I sent off a batch of application letters to different countries and one school in Beijing called me (about five in the morning), so I said, sure. That was a fantastic experience. Students at that time were the elite of the elite, after schools had been wiped out during the Cultural Revolution. They were eager to learn English, and learn everything about outside China. There were so few foreigners in Beijing at that time that the embassies had Friday afternoon cocktail parties, so me and the other teachers could go to all these different embassies. I could travel all over the country on break times and got to see some amazing places. And people outside Beijing got to see their first non-Chinese. I spent a year there later and visited again several times, each time, it’s a different country it feels like. 

FQ: The number of characters that you developed for the Detective Hiroshi series is staggering. With that many characters in play in your novels, I am curious if you modeled any of them after friends, family or personal acquaintances?

PRONKO: Well, there are a lot of people in Tokyo, so you’re never short of characters. I wouldn’t say they are modeled on people I know other than that. I think it’s more a process of condensation of qualities taken from real people and packed into a single character in the book. I don’t model it on one real person, but usually draw on several different people. I talk with people a fair bit and observe them even more, so a lot of those experiences funnel into a single character. 

FQ: In your bio, you reveal that you have traveled for years, during and after graduate school. Can you share with our readers where your travels took you, and which area of your travels were your favorite and why?

PRONKO: I took off after college for a working holiday in New Zealand and Australia. I worked on a farm, as a dishwasher, sandwich board man, and security guard. The security guard job was the best as basically I just sat at a desk in the lobby, signing people in and out, and I could read for hours. Six months of that was almost as much reading as in college. I went to Indonesia, Thailand, India, and then over to Turkey, Greece, Morroco, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Denmark. Some of those I had friends in a couple of places I could stay with on the cheap. I was amazed by India, which really stunned me, with poverty, of course, but with the brilliance and strength of the culture. I studied French at school, so I enjoyed being there. 

FQ: You currently work as a professor of American Literature at a university in Tokyo and also teach American film, music, and art. Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like for you?

PRONKO: I usually write in the mornings at home, and schedule classes in the afternoons to protect that time. After writing, I exercise, shower (I never adapted to Japanese bathing at night), and bicycle to the station. My commute is just over an hour, only two trains, a relatively easy commute by Tokyo standards, and without the morning rush hour. I like the train as I can observe people and see bits and pieces of the city going by. I often get my best ideas on the train. I prepare classes in my office and zip through the inevitable on-campus errands. Afternoons are teaching. I run my classes in English, though campus stuff is all in Japanese. I usually put two classes in a row. Classes are 90 minutes. After that, students ask questions or stop by my office. Classes meet once a week. I try to stem the tide of email flooding in through the day. My office has a nice view over the city, so before I leave, I turn off the light and look out at “my” little sliver of the city. Then, on the way home, I meet people for drinks or dinner, or head to a jazz club and drift off into the music. Then, train to bike to home. 

FQ: Along with your teaching and writing endeavors, you also help facilitate a conference on teaching literature. Can you please explain how you became involved in this, and what your role in this project entails?

PRONKO: When I first started teaching in Japan, I was disappointed at the outdated methods of some literature professors. Much of classwork was simply translating works from English to Japanese without discussion, interaction, or presentation. Students complained to me. Literature teachers tended to consider themselves to be researchers and did what their professors did which was one-way lecturing. So, I set up a conference to share ideas, present techniques, and discuss the pedagogy of teaching literature in more active and engaged ways. The first year, about two dozen people showed up, but we considered it a success. From there, it grew to 150-some participants the year before the pandemic. I ran it for six years and then colleagues took it to other universities, adding a grad student awards section, panel discussions, and broader participation. Now, I’m more supportive than executive, but I still find it valuable to swap ideas, techniques and experiences with other literature teachers. It helps tie together my love of reading, teaching, and thinking about literature. And that funnels into my writing. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

#BookReview of The Rope That Ties Us

The Rope That Ties Us

By: Jessica S. Scheumann
Illustrated by: Camila de Liz Nunes
Publisher: Arteirinha Bilingual Books
Publication Date: November 1, 2023
ISBN: 979-8851049880
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: January 19, 2024
From Brazilian writer Jessica S. Scheumann comes her second bilingual children’s book, The Rope That Ties Us. Scheumann’s book is brought to life through illustrations by Camila de Liz Nunes, and follows the journey of an infant as he grows into a child and explores his emotional connection with his mother.
The story begins as we meet an infant who has just become aware of his mother and her comforting presence. As the young child grows, he begins to recognize his mother’s hands, voice, breathing, and heartbeat as she is consistently there for him, yet she still allows him room to mature and learn new things. He slowly learns how to crawl to reach his teddy bear, and from there, moving on to reaching his book, blankie, and bottle. As he gets older, he learns how to walk on his own two feet, and before long, he is walking and running everywhere, trying to keep up with his sister. When he gets hurt, his mother is there to comfort him and make him feel better. As the young boy grows, he learns that although his mother may not be physically near him all of the time, she will always be close to his heart.
The story behind The Rope That Ties Us is simple; yet it offers a powerful reminder to parents and caregivers about the importance that the role of showing affection plays in parenting. All too often these days, children are told to be “tough” or to “shake it off” when they get hurt, when in reality, showing them a bit of affection and love would go a long way in helping them to feel safe and secure. Scheumann’s unpretentious and poetic story is a sweet representation of Secure Attachment Theory, which demonstrates that resilience and emotional intelligence are formed in childhood as a result of a healthy, secure attachment to a child’s caregiver.
In addition to inspiring parents to be the best caregivers they can be, Scheumann’s book is also unique in that it is bilingual, so it will be able to reach an even broader audience. The story is also written in rhyme, which makes books fun to read and appeals to children. The illustrations done by Camila de Liz Nunes are bright and adorable and complement the story perfectly, bringing it to life for young children to enjoy.
Quill says: With The Rope That Ties Us, bilingual author Scheumann has written a lovely story exploring the profound impact of love and affection on a child’s formative years. The story is simple and relatable for both children and parents alike, while the scientific knowledge that Scheumann imparts to her readers is truly invaluable.
For more information on The Rope That Ties Us, please visit the author's website at:

Thursday, January 18, 2024

#Bookreview of Hummingbird: Messages from My Ancestors by Diana Raab

Hummingbird: Messages from My Ancestors

By: Diana Raab
Publisher: Modern History Press
Publication Date: January 15, 2024
ISBN: 978-1615997640
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: January 16, 2024
Award-winning writer Diana Raab in her newest book, Hummingbird, offers stories from her family experience, expanding and developing them into pragmatic steps that others can follow.
In the first chapter of her soul-searching recollections, readers learn that Regina, Raab’s maternal grandmother and a significant and much-loved contact and caregiver, committed suicide. The author depicts this childhood drama in sharp detail, being with Regina when she, only ten years old, discovered the woman’s unconscious form. She had to phone her mother with the news that, “I think something’s wrong with Grandma!” and wait in mental torment for help to come, believing Regina might still be alive. She watched as an ambulance took her grandmother away, accompanied by police and firemen. She would learn that her grandmother died from an overdose of tranquilizers. This highly traumatic event stoked in Raab the need to begin writing - her self-discovered way of dealing with the grief and confusion that arose from loss. She actually conducted “after-school journaling classes with other neighborhood children,” presaging her passion for what would later become her career. Another aspect of this intuitive sense came when, as an adult, she consulted mystics and psychics to explore a deeper understanding of many of her familial connections and disconnects; one such deviner described Regina as “a seer,” a truth that Raab readily grasped.
With her family background of German/Austrian immigration, Raab would uncover many secrets embedded in that ancestry, finding reason to question her treatment by some of her closest kin. Dealing with these sometimes painful revelations impelled her even farther along the path to designing art-based, often poetic, journal-centered methods for others to employ as they remember and reconcile past triumphs and mistakes.
Raab has taken upon herself the admirable task of helping and healing, mainly through her many books treating the crucial subjects that arose out of her own poignant, often painful experiences, both as a child and as a mother. This latest work again fulfills that chosen purpose, setting forth for readers at the end of each chapter a series of carefully composed questions that delve into such crucial issues as Holocaust history, long-term illness, COVID concerns, and the need for “a safe haven.” Raab readily expresses her heartfelt hope that her grandchildren will want to explore their heritage and will approach her with “questions about my life before they were born.” Her writing has the power to endow readers with this same spiritual ambition as they read and ponder her artistry and her deftly defined wishes for them and for herself: health, happiness, and a graciously given legacy.
Quill says: Readers will be enchanted by Diana Raab’s Hummingbird, a mentoring memoir that offers a multitude of recollections and suggestions for absorbing family dynamics, forgiving without forgetting, and growing spiritually from the exercises she has practiced and now shares.
For more information on Hummingbird: Messages from My Ancestors, please visit the author's website at:
Diana Raab
Diana Raab
HummingbirdNon-fiction Books Writing for BlissNon-fiction Books Healing with WordsNon-fiction Books Regina’s ClosetNon-fiction Books Writers And Their NotebooksNon-fiction Books Writers On The EdgeNon-fiction Books Getting Pregnant & Staying PregnantNon-fiction Books An Imaginary AffairPoetry Book...

#AuthorInterview with Howard Frederic Ibach, author of Already Home

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Howard Frederick Ibach, author of Already Home: Confronting the Trauma of Adoption.

FQ: Thank you for your time today. Before we discuss the mechanics of your memoir, I’d like to learn more about you. It’s interesting to learn you were raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and eventually ended up in Southern California. I’m assuming your work took you there initially, or was that a conscious choice to end up in Southern California?

IBACH: My career in advertising as a copywriter and creative director often required me to chase the work. I started in Milwaukee and worked at three ad agencies, then a recruiter landed a position for me in Chicago. I got laid off and moved to LA to be closer to a guy with whom I had a quasi-relationship that is too complicated to describe here, but related to your last question on this list, will be the subject of my next two memoirs, one of which is already a 215-page first draft.

I lived in LA for 10 years and planted some deep roots, but work dried up and I took a job in Minneapolis that was a career advancement even if it meant leaving what I called my “adopted home” in LA. Minneapolis lasted eight years, then I was recruited again, this time to a job in New Jersey. It was a bad career move and decision, but it allowed me to transition to teaching. I landed an adjunct instructor’s position at Essex Community College in Newark. After a year in NJ, the lease to my condo rental was up so I had to move. I decided to make it a big move and returned to LA where I taught college, then switched to corporate training. I moved to Austin, TX, in 2021 to be closer to my family and my father, who was 95, and was blessed to have been by his side almost to the moment of his passing 14 months later. That left me at loose ends, so I decided to return to California, but this time to the desert where I had quite a few friends. LA was only two hours away by car, so it was a happy compromise. My first experience living in a small town but close enough to a major metropolitan to enjoy both.

FQ: In line with my previous question, what would be one of your favorite things about Wisconsin? Southern California? And why?

IBACH: It’s a hard choice between my boyhood home and its surroundings, specifically the ravine, and Lake Keesus, where my maternal grandparents lived and where, as kids, we spent many summers swimming, boating and later for me, water skiing, which became a passion through my college years.

Los Angeles is an acquired taste. It is so big in so many ways you struggle to appreciate it completely. It combined geographic beauty with squalor, seemingly unlimited possibility with shallowness, but I established deep friendships among such a variety of people. Which made it so heartrending to leave when I was forced to take a job in Minneapolis. Where Wisconsin was about places and experiences, LA and California were more about people.

FQ: I was drawn to your belief that you were never a ‘victim’ as an adoptee. Rather, you were on a mission to understand if there was anything about your personality that was formed, given the fact you were adopted. The two books you cited early on by Nancy Verrier (The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child and Coming Home to Self: The Adopted Child Grows Up) sound like solid beginnings toward understanding. How do you feel about ‘self-help’ publications? Do you approach them as a resource to assist in formulating your opinion?

Author Howard Frederick Ibach

IBACH: Nancy Verrier’s books are not self-help by any definition. They were both clinical research tomes, especially Coming Home to Self, which was a slog to read. Primal Wound was more digestible, but you would never find either title in the “self-help” section of a bookstore.

My opinion about adoption was formed long before I read either book. I reacted to both books, rather negatively as I think you gathered from my memoir. I treated them as obstacles to overcome and the more closely I examined Verrier’s arguments, the more I realized how flawed her research was. And then three years into the journey and the writing of my memoir, I discovered Michael Grand, almost by accident. Here was a fellow adoptee and practicing psychologist who challenged the accepted wisdom and offered a counterargument to Verrier, and even more, an explanation of what my adoptive parents did to raise me, completely unwittingly. Their instincts and love made the difference.

FQ: To expand further on Ms. Verrier’s views on the subject of adoption: "...It is thought by many psychologists that [...] a feeling of rightness, well-being, and wholeness [...] is a state of primary narcissism considered appropriate to this stage of life… But when the infant is separated from their birth mother, the ‘opposites of this state are the feelings of anxiety, sorrow, and loneliness..." I think I personally read this observation three times and still cannot grasp what she is trying to say. As a subject matter of her formulated view, what is your interpretation?

IBACH: Adoption is a traumatic experience for infant, birth mother and adoptive mother. It is an unnatural thing to remove a newborn and place it with an unfamiliar woman, no matter how caring and loving she may be. These are facts. No one disputes this part.

An adopted newborn, however, is not conscious of itself, and won’t be for a number of years. This is what “a feeling of rightness, well-being and wholeness...a primary narcissism” refers to. The infant knows only that this new creature holding him doesn’t sound the same, feel the same, smell the same. It's not MOM, the woman I lived inside of for nine months.

I think Verrier is essentially correct in these observations. Where she falters is when she takes her clinical observations and tries to draw conclusions about all adoptees. She never saw or treated adoptees who were not scarred or did not feel abandoned or rejected or bad or some other negative emotion. In other words, she never treated people like me. Why not? I had no reason to seek out her or someone in her profession for help. I was not in need. So Verrier’s conclusions are limited to only those people who came to see her. There is no control group of people like me that she could compare to the people she treated. This is fundamentally bad science. It’s the difference between clinical research and scientific research.

FQ: I’m a strong believer that there are no coincidences in life. When you were at the crossroads in your relationship with Zoe, and ultimately determined you would be taking separate paths, was there an instant flood of emotions that pointed to that moment as the deciding factor to learn what your life meant as an adoptee? Was that a struggle to embrace initially?


FQ: In line with my previous question, why do you suppose there could be a negative ‘stigma’ attached to the concept of adoption? Shouldn’t this be more of a glorious moment for the child, i.e., there are people in our world who want to provide a home, nurture, and a sense of security to another being? Please share your views on this concept.

IBACH: For me and for my sister Mary Jo (Jo), yes, our lives were glorious years, decades, in a wonderful home with wonderful opportunities. I think most adoptees move up in the world socioeconomically.

But not all adoptees are treated the same. This I came to learn about as I was taking the journey and writing my book. There are adoptees—what percentage I do not know—who were treated as second-class siblings. I have a friend who was treated this way. She is African American adopted into a white family, and her grandparents, perhaps well-intentioned, made a point of saying to her that she was their “special black baby.” She felt it separated her from the rest of the family. She did not experience her life as an adoptee the way I did.

FQ: Is there a moment when you arrived at the intersection of your life growing up and now folding your birth relations (siblings) into the mix where you were thinking, perhaps knowing this exists is enough, and now I can move on with my life? To quote you: "...My life was full. My life has never not been complete..." (pg. 127). What was your moment of reckoning to keep moving forward with your discoveries, and why?

IBACH: Forgive me, but I think I’ll refer you back to my book. I spent five years writing and rewriting and rewriting again the chapters where I explain this. I can’t and won’t try to improve on those pages here.

FQ: It’s interesting to dissect the different cultures, accents, and mannerisms throughout the demographics of our country. When you are about to embark on the part of the country where your birth family is from (the Deep South), you have moments of stereotypical thoughts: “...I faced a gap of experience unlike anything I have ever tried to bridge. Familiar but uncomfortable thoughts crept into my thinking: Was I guilty of believing the stereotype that everyone in the South was a bigot, a racist, a white supremacist?" (pg. 144) If you had the opportunity to give a talk to a group of people and introduce what the South represents for you, what would be your opening line and why?

IBACH: First, let me correct you. I did not have stereotypical “thoughts.” I asked questions that revealed my fears of being stereotypical. There’s a huge difference.

Second, I would never accept a speaking engagement on that topic.

FQ: I want to thank you for your time today and commend you on a well-thought-out memoir of your experiences as an adoptee. Are you working on your next project, and if so, what can we expect to read next from you?

IBACH: I have two books coming out in 2024. One is a rewrite of a short biographical sketch of the late Stanley Holden, former Royal Ballet soloist and long-time ballet teacher in Los Angeles, who died in 2007. We were friends and collaborators for the last nine years of his life. I wrote a long-form article commemorating the 15th anniversary of his passing and published it in 2022. Now I’m bringing it out in revised form as an ebook and paperback.

Second, I’m publishing a collection of short essays, edited and revised versions of blog posts, on the nuts and bolts of writing creative briefs, which is my area of subject-matter expertise. The topic relates to an important document advertisers use, called a creative brief, to inspire their creative partners to come up with their ad campaigns. I was in the ad industry for twenty-six years and have published two critically acclaimed graphic textbooks on creative briefs.

I am now writing a new memoir about the emotional and psychological intricacies I experienced forty years ago when I plunged head-first into a relationship I knew would end badly. It did, twelve years later. But I did it anyway. I want to explore why I did this, but not a superficial looky-loo, as if I’m in a car on the highway speeding past a major car wreck. I want to take a real dive into what happens when the human brain and heart lose all sense of reason. I plan to do the same kind of research for this that I did for the memoir.

The memoir to follow is already written, about 215 pages of a first draft. It’s when I started setting it up in my writing software and reread much of it (it collected dust for years) that I realized it made no sense without a prequel. It’s about how I extricated myself from the toxic relationship I mentioned above and built a life as a thirty-something adult in LA. It also coincides with my acknowledging my bisexuality at the age of 40.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

January Book Giveaway


Have you entered this month's book giveaway? For January, we're offering "The Witch of Wethersfield: A Cunning Woman" by Katherine Spada Basto. To enter, go to our website's main page, scroll to the bottom, and you'll see the short little entry form. (We don't collect emails so you can enter without worrying that you'll get spammed later on.)

#Bookreview of Mama's Secret Strength by Vanessa Lim

Mama's Secret Strength

By: Vanessa Lim
Illustrated by: Josephine Satyakrama
Publication Date: July 19, 2022
ISBN: 978-1916900646
Reviewed by: Diana Coyle
Review Date: January 15, 2024
Mama has a secret superpower, and her daughter can’t wait to tell everyone about it in Mama’s Secret Strength by Vanessa Lim. You see, when Mama puts her hijab on, which is a special scarf that she wraps around her hair every day, it is like she receives superpowers and turns into a superhero. Her hijab makes Mama tough, and she can tackle any problem that comes her way. Just like a superhero, she is fearless when she has it on. When she has her hijab on, she can even catch the biggest spider with her bare hands.
Mama has seven hijabs that she feels are her favorites. Each color gives her a different superpower that she shares with the people close to her. Her black hijab makes all the colorful things brighter after a storm. Her yellow one gives her the power of hope in any situation that presents itself to her. No matter what the color, each is very special to her.
The first thing that resonated with me in this story was how Mama’s daughter believed that because of Mama’s hijabs, she had such strength within her that it was like she had different superpowers. She believed each color aided Mama in conquering whatever came her way on a daily basis. Just the thought that her daughter had such love and respect for her Mama that she believed she was a superhero melted this reviewer’s heart. It was pure joy to read a story in which a child elevated their parent to such a level of love and reverence. Children will become engrossed in this story not only because they are talking about superpowers but also because it teaches them to hold high regard for the elders in their lives. This is a wonderful message to teach children of any age.
Another thing that stood out was that her daughter knew Mama so well that even though her mother had many hijabs of all colors and designs, she knew that Mama had seven that were her favorites. Her daughter even had different special powers assigned to each of the seven colors. The one color that stood out the most was Mama’s blue hijab, which stood for the power of protection against anything that might be negative or harmful to her. Her daughter was extremely creative in labeling each color as something uniquely special to Mama.
Something that also needs mentioning is how the daughter explains that when Mama wears her hijab; she notices people looking at her mom funny because of the hair covering. It was sad to read that the daughter noticed something like this happening. Just the thought that Mama found her inner strength to look past any discrimination she might have received from wearing her hijab enhanced the message to children that being different is not a bad thing. We all have different features, wear different clothes, and even have different personalities, so this should be looked upon as something positive and empowering, not negative and demeaning. This was a very strong message that children can learn from at any age.
Quill says: Mama’s Secret Strength is a story of endearment, and a story of how a child sees her Mama as a superhero because of her interchangeable hijabs she wears daily. The love expressed through the daughter’s eyes is priceless.
For more information on Mama's Secret Strength, please visit the author's Instagram page at:

#Bookreview of Already Home: Confronting the Trauma of Adoption

Already Home: Confronting the Trauma of Adoption

By: Howard Frederick Ibach
Publisher: Juju Books LLC
Publication Date: December 5, 2023
ISBN: 978-8-9892923-1-8
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: January 15, 2024
Howard Ibach, in his debut memoir, Already Home: Confronting the Trauma of Adoption, sets pen to paper and shares his experiences and approach to how adoption affected his life.
Howard Ibach does not recall the day he was adopted. How could he? He was an infant. In November 1955, a drunk driver killed the husband of Howard’s future mother. In her grief, the mother found comfort in the arms of another man. Roughly a year after the accident, Howard’s mother gave birth to ‘Howard,’ and shortly after his birth, Howard was put up for adoption. Howard has no complaints about his adoptive parents, Martha and Howard Ibach, a physician father and scientist mother. He clearly sets this tone from the start of his story. It is when he meets Zoe, the ‘love of his life,’ and they hit a rough patch months into their relationship, that questions begin to surface. The couple decides it is worth their while to see a couples therapist. Ibach states: "...It was Zoe who led me in 2015 to the therapist who introduced me to the author of two books that would change my life: Nancy Newton Verrier, M.A, a psychotherapist in private practice and an adoption specialist. Two people—my couple therapist and Verrier—marked the beginning of my education about what I think most people would agree was a consequential event in my life, but one that I never gave much thought to. Everything I knew about adoption would be challenged..." And so began Ibach’s journey to understand...
Ibach is insistent that he never felt abandonment or rejection, nor was he compelled to prove his worth. What he does center his defining moment around understanding is to focus on (perhaps) sublime emotions and possibly suppressed stress that he didn’t know he carried until furthering his self-educational journey of the impacts of adoption. The encouragement to journey down this path began when Zoe suggested to Howard in their first therapy session: " about your adoption..." Their relationship ended shortly after, and Ibach began researching his childhood for evidence of emotional distress—were there occasions when he acted out that could point to the fact that he was adopted? Were these feelings so deeply buried he wasn’t equipped to address them until now as a 58-year-old grown man? Fortunately, not long after these questions rose to his surface, the State of Wisconsin opened its adoption records. It allowed children to delve into finding their birth parents for the first time. Ibach learned his birth mother’s name and also the fact she had died many years prior. The effect this had on Ibach was to embrace the information as a door that opened into a search that would uncover the backstory he had never known before.
Ibach writes with an unassuming tone, and his story plays out across the pages through a voice of revelations and experiences as he converses with his audience for the first time. There are moments where he questions what the correct terminology is to use. Should it be Bloodline? Ancestry? Parentage? He talks about his deceased mother and father, Harold and Martha. Granted, they were his adoptive parents, but again, the ‘parents’ he knew who raised him. At the beginning of his quest for information, he is insistent on setting the record straight that he is not a ‘victim,’ but there are times when a sense of uncertainty will be prevalent during his quest to understand. The overarching sense throughout this memoir is Ibach was compelled to share his journey of self-exploration in a light of positivity and something that was important to him to share for the finality of his personal acceptance. This is as much an informative read as it is emotionally captivating.
Quill says: Already Home is a story of inspiration as much as an affirmation that nobody has to be a ‘victim’ in his/her search for the truth.
For more information on Already Home: Confronting the Trauma of Adoption, please visit the author's website at:

#Bookreview of Shitamachi Scam by Michael Pronko

Shitamachi Scam (Detective Hiroshi Series, Book 6)

By: Michael Pronko
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Publication Date: December 15, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-942410317
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
Review Date: January 15, 2024
Award-winning mystery writer Michael Pronko has recently released his sixth book in the Detective Hiroshi series, entitled Shitamachi Scam. This new book follows Detective Hiroshi Shimizu as he works to track down a ruthless group of scammers who target retirees and the aged and rob them of their life savings and their pensions.
In this latest adventure of Detective Hiroshi, two seemingly unrelated murders have just been committed in Tokyo, one of a woman in her 70s and the other of a young college student who kept to himself. However, upon further investigation by Detective Hiroshi, it becomes clear that these two murders are actually connected and have been perpetrated by a cruel group of scammers. Along with the help of Detective Ishii from the women’s crime task force, they both diligently work to uncover the unsavory people behind the scams and, even further, to expose the truth behind those working for the scammers.
During the course of their investigation, an arson attack also takes place, and a real estate agent named Keisuke is beaten up so badly he ends up in the hospital. These violent acts at first seem unrelated to their case, but as they search for clues, a solid connection cannot be denied. As the detectives meticulously explore to reveal the reality of the crimes being committed in Tokyo, Detectives Hiroshi and Ishii find themselves going down a rabbit hole of corruption and criminal behavior, all orchestrated by merciless real estate developers with deep pockets.
With the sixth book in the Detective Hiroshi series, Shitamachi Scam, Pronko has achieved another well-paced, thrilling murder mystery set in the mega city of Tokyo. Pronko is no stranger to successfully penning captivating mysteries about criminals and corruption, and his latest novel is no exception. The dialogue is engaging throughout the story and keeps the reader interested until the very end. Pronko has quite a skill for writing a complex story with a myriad of characters, which can sometimes lead to confusion for the reader. However, Pronko establishes a helpful solution to this situation by adding a cast of characters list at the beginning of the book. For anyone who wants to start reading Pronko’s Detective Hiroshi series out of order and needs a little extra help keeping the characters straight, this index is extremely useful.
Pronko’s style of writing is fascinating as he describes crime scenes in such physical detail as well as including the emotions of the detectives as they process the crime scenes. Throughout the story, Pronko’s familiarity with Tokyo and Japan creates such in-depth scene descriptions for the reader that the city truly comes to life. The ability of Pronko to depict these settings in such detail adds another level to his storytelling that is not found in every novel, simply because not every author has this unique skill.
Quill says: With Shitamachi Scam, Pronko has created another winning story complete with corruption and murder, yet balanced with thoroughly developed characters that seasoned readers have grown to love and appreciate. Pronko truly has a gift for superb storytelling that is well-crafted, entertaining, and thoroughly captivating, all of which shines brightly in his latest release.
To learn more about Shitamachi Scam (Detective Hiroshi Series, Book 6), please visit the author’s website at: