Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Tour With Wally Lamb & I'll Fly Away

Up Close And Very Personal

My days have been incredibly busy lately. So much so that I didn't have time to rant in my journal! (No time to rant in the journal! -Gasp!-).

Between working full-time, going to school full-time, working on Patrice Hamilton's website, and being a part of the latest Judy Dworin Performance Project's dance and theater piece, I've had zilch down-time. But, thankfully, on Thursday, September 20th, Wally Lamb did a signing for "his" new book, "I'll Fly Away." I say "his" because, really, it's the second volume of personal essays from the class he teaches at York Correctional Institute in Niantic, CT. Some of the writers, who have been released since writing their essays, accompanied him and they all presented a piece of their own and also a piece of a woman who is still incarcerated. My older sister and I were lucky enough to be asked to represent our Mom.

After the overwhelming response we received from audience members about how having Suzi and I read, as children of the incarcerated, presented a whole different dynamic to what Wally and his group were doing, Wally opened up an invitation for us to join them in the next signing. So, Suzi and I did. This one was at RJ Julia in Madison. That night, we actually signed many books together, writing comments and thankyous at the beginning of our Mom's essay, "Shh, Don't Tell." Again, so many menbers of the audience thanked us and shook our hands and said how glad they were that we were a part of this and how proud our Mom must be. Our Dad was in the audience that night (and also at the Borders signing) to tell us just how proud he was. Upon hearing questions about how Suzi and I dealt with having a mom in prison, we told many people that we were lucky - we still have a very supportive father, something that many kids with parents in jail don't have.

And so, Wally asked us along again to last night's signing in Northhampton, MA. We signed a few more books last night, but it was nice because it was a much smaller, more intimate crowd, so we got to talk to a few audience members a lot more. The next gig is going to be in New York, and Wally said that he would look into having us join them, because this time it's an overnight thing and it involves the radio as well (I think NPR), so he has to okay it with HarperCollins.

But, even if Suzi and I can't go to New York, it's been a wild ride already. It feels reall great - liberating, actually - to stand up and represent my Mom, to have her words flow through me. To tell her story that she's buried inside of her for so many years. And yes, we are proud of her, too. Because once you begin diggin up all of those old, harmful secrets, that is when the healing process can begin. And if there is no healing process and an inmate is released from prison with nowhere to go, no skills acquired on how to cope, then she will be right back in the slammer.

And, yeah, I'm going to tell you to go out and buy the book now (c'mon, you knew it was coming). It's called "I'll Fly Away" and it's shelved as if it were written by Wally Lamb (so, under "L" for Lamb). At Borders, it's in the Women's Studies section, but as for other bookstores, I can only guess. My mom's story, "Shh, Don't Tell" by Deborah Ranger, is on page 26.

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