May You Be Who You Are

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Haley Tanner‘s debut novel, Vaclav and Lena, is now available. She will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.

The day my first novel, Vaclav and Lena, was published, I didn’t do anything wild or anything flashy. There were only two people in the world I wanted share the experience with: my parents.  After dinner, and some champagne, we walked to our local bookstore to visit my book—to see my book for the first time in a bookstore.  My mother, who is completely without shame, found the manager and proudly announced that there was an ACTUAL author in the store. My dad and I hung back and giggled.  The store manager indulged us, had me sign some copies, and stuck some “local author” stickers on the books.  We thanked him, and he walked away, and then my mother ran after him — for what, we didn’t know.  She came back with an extra “local author” sticker and stuck it right on my chest.  We all cracked up.  It was a long and difficult road to that “Local Author” sticker and my parents were there every step of the way.

When my family had Shabbat dinner, each and every Friday night – whether it was brisket or Cajun meatloaf or pizza, my mother blessed us.  Instead of thetraditional blessing, asking god to make my sister and me like SarahRebeccah,Rachel and Leah, or my brother like Menashe and Ephraim. She said. “May you be who you are and may you be blessed in all that you are.”

It is not easy to raise a writer.  It is not easy to raise a creative child. It is not easy to  emotionally support your child when she’s graduating from college and NOT jumping feet first into the job force, but instead jumping feet first into a writing a novel.  When everyone else’s twenty-something kids are going to law school, or med school, or getting promotions, your twenty-something is living with five roommates, working odd jobs, and writing this nebulous mysterious book that she refuses to talk about.  It is not easy to help your writer (or painter, or actress, or musician) figure out how to make a life that is satisfying and fulfilling and structured while they pursue their dream.

In my novel, Vaclav & Lena, the main character, Vaclav, wants to become the worlds greatest and most famous magician.  His parents, recent Russian Jewish immigrants, worry about his future, about the prospects for a child who wants a singular and difficult dream.  Vaclav’s parents struggle, as mine did, to support and protect their child.  I’m sure that at times, my parents felt like Vaclav’s mother, Rasia:

“It is not safe, for Vaclav, out in the world, with his eyes open to everything and his heart beating right on his sleeve, with his dreams in his hands, ready to show and tell.”

I’m sure that my parents struggled with supporting a writer, and sometimes I think that the blessing, “May you be who you are and may you be blessed in all that you are,” was as much a blessing for me as an affirmation for them.

Check back on Thursday for Haley Tanner‘s next post on the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.

Posted on June 1, 2011

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