My colleague, Kendra Plant, recently interviewed me about the play at the History Theatre in St. Paul, “Watermelon Hill.” She asked some interesting questions so I thought I’d share parts of the interview here, along with some additional thoughts.
KP: How do you identify as an artist/writer?
LBM: As a poet, I am a reporter working to make sense of this world through my own set of filters. I try to access the qualities of humility, appreciation, empathy and gratitude in all of my writing and teaching, no matter how deeply I must dig.
KP: What inspired you to write Out Of The Shadows?
LBM: My first nonfiction book was Shadow Mothers. Out of the Shadows: Stories of Adoption and Reunion is the updated version. My subjects are women who placed their babies for adoption in the 1960s and were eventually reunited with their adult children. Working on Shadow Mothers taught me how to tell real stories in an honest and intimate way. When I envision people reading these books, I see friends sharing a bottle of wine curled up in front of the fire taking turns reading aloud to each other.
Personal experience was the initial reason I started this work. In 1966 I had a baby boy and placed him for adoption. I was told it was forever and I would never see him again. When Minnesota laws became a bit more open, we met again and have been close ever since. He’s almost 50 years old now. My story is included in the books.
Out of the Shadows includes the original stories, new stories, essays and additional content. It also contains updates of several of the stories, documenting how the reunions have developed over the years
KP: How did you navigate the challenges of making private stories public?
These women wanted to tell their stories. There are other women, many of whom I have met, who are too damaged to talk or even think about what happened to them. It’s important to know that we were told never to “tell.” This is all very important — to know about this dark place in history. There are factions in our society that want us to return to those punitive and inhumane practices. This should never happen again. To anyone.
KP: Did you find the writing to be cathartic?
I believe in this work and I’m happy to do it. What’s important to me is that Out of the Shadows as well as “Watermelon Hill” has brought healing and peace to many people, including women who have been damaged by these experiences, their families and loved ones.
“Watermelon Hill” first ran in 2001 and now, fifteen years later, it’s back, more skillful, soulful and profound than ever. I am thrilled and gratified.