Q&A with Heidi Durrow author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky discussion

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky: A Discussion

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message 1: by Heidi (new)

Heidi (heididurrow) | 13 comments Mod
I love hearing from readers about the book. And I really love to hear readers discuss the book among each other. Everyone seems to get something different--and I always learn a lot. What would you like to talk about regarding the book? What questions, ideas, thoughts were you left with?

message 2: by Diana (new)

Diana (whatwouldruthdo) | 2 comments Even though I can certainly see pieces of myself in Rachel, I also see my husband. He is the mixed race son of a white mom and black father (also a soldier). I couldn't help but see some of her experiences through his eyes and compare and contrast. I think he was lucky to grow up in a military environment because there are always kids of many different backgrounds in your life, but even then you find yourself living in two different worlds and have to define for yourself how you fit in either one. Luckily for him he's a confident person who takes in all in stride as an adult.

One of the ways I related to Rachel was through the idea of family secrets. I guess we all have them, but I think some of us have more than others. The undertones of family violence were powerful for me, too. It seems so common for violence to be the source of many of those tightly held family secrets. In my family, anyway.

I just love the book and have to tell you it is one of the best things I've read in the past few years, and I read a lot. It has stuck with me in a very personal way.

I hate to make the somewhat obvious comparison to The Bluest Eye, and I suppose you've heard that a lot, but I mean it as a compliment. And who'd mind being compared to one of the greatest writers of our time even if she's critical of her own work in hindsight, right?

Was anything other than the inspiration for the background of Rachel's mother and father inspired by your own life? Have you been through similar struggles to find acceptance that the rest of us take for granted?

message 3: by Heidi (new)

Heidi (heididurrow) | 13 comments Mod
Diana wrote: "Even though I can certainly see pieces of myself in Rachel, I also see my husband. He is the mixed race son of a white mom and black father (also a soldier). I couldn't help but see some of her exp..."

Hi Diana!
Your message so incredibly heartening! I obviously definitely want people who are in mixed families to connect with the story--there is so much about the mixed experience that is not said most of the time--but also wanted to tell a story that anyone could relate to because there are so many different threads (and difficulties) in Rachel's life.
I agree that your husband was lucky in many ways to grow up in the military life--that was my own experience too until I turned 11. It seemed at least back then, that in the military we were more united across races/cultures because we identified first as American.
And I absolutely don't mind the comparison to The Bluest Eye--one of my all-time favorite books. But it wasn't until many years after I read it that I realized I had a story to tell that was in some ways a kind of "sequel" to The Bluest Eye--I wanted to write about the little black girl who had blue eyes and survived!
Okay, to answer your questions at last: 1. the inspiration for the background of Rachel's parents was very much inspired by my own life--I sometimes joke that was as far as my imagination could take me--:) And then 2. I think my own struggle to accept my identity was very much complicated by society's ideas about race and culture--but at bottom, my struggle and indeed Rachel's struggle I hope reflect some similar things with many others--I wanted to tell a story like that because I think there's something so powerful in a reader seeing his/her experience somehow in literature!
Thank you Diana--and I'd love to hear any other comments or questions you have! --heidi

message 4: by Diana (new)

Diana (whatwouldruthdo) | 2 comments I love the idea of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky as a sequel to The Bluest Eye because it is a more hopeful story. There is a positive future ahead for Rachel that never seemed possible for Pecola. The girl who survived is exactly right!

I'm happy to have the chance to chat with you and share how much I love your work.

message 5: by Mary Beth (new)

Mary Beth (lifelovebooks) Heidi,
I had the chance to meet you briefly at ALA and you signed my book. I told you I was had heard good things about it. I just finished it and I must say I am blown away, and everything I heard was true! The book was tragic and hopeful, and I am happy that you ended it the way you did for Rachel.

I was most moved by Brick and his story - one that is far too real for many children. As a parent it hurt me even more than Nella's story, which was horrible, but was born from love as misguided as it may have been. Was Brick inspired by anyone you personally knew, or where otherwise did the inspiration for that character come from?

message 6: by Heidi (new)

Heidi (heididurrow) | 13 comments Mod
Hi Mary Beth!
Thank you soooo much for your message! And I'm very glad that the book lived up to what you'd heard-- :)Yay!
And thank you for loving Brick. Brick has my heart. I love that little dude so much. Brick was inspired by my introduction to the life of birders by a fellow artist at an artist's colony. I was struck by my colleague's obsession and wondered what would happen if you had that obsession and you had no way of seeing birds--of being in nature--what if you were a city kid and longed to see something more than what was outside your window? Brick started off as a character in what I thought would be a short story--and it wasn't until I was writing that I realized that he belonged in the novel too. He would be Rachel's witness.
He was also inspired by my dearest friend's son--who was born at the time I starting writing the character. I had wanted to be at his birth, but was at the colony instead. The "real" Brick is a little (very fast-growing) boy who loves to say to his mother: where is the book with my name in it?

message 7: by Lea (new)

Lea (vagabondia) Thank you so much for writing this book. While my own background is purely vanilla, I was so touched by all of the characters. I was especially drawn to Brick and I was so touched by his shaky relationship with Rachel's dad-- the conflicting feelings of admiration and fear felt very true to life.

Naturally, however, the women stuck with me, particulary how much they varied. Rachel's aunt and mother really touched me, and a part of me is so sad that they never knew one another. I feel like they would have been fast friends.

The best part of this book, however, is the way in which you reveal the events on the roof. I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but I appreciated the different directions the text took me and the "truth" felt realistic, no matter how upsetting. In this way, it was in some ways a mystery as well.

Do you think you will return to this family or idea in future work?

message 8: by Mary Beth (new)

Mary Beth (lifelovebooks) Thank you Heidi!

message 9: by Heidi (new)

Heidi (heididurrow) | 13 comments Mod
Hi Lea,
Wow--that is something I never thought about -- what the relationship would have been like between Aunt Loretta and Nella--yes, I agree that they would have become fast friends--and they seem almost like they would be the ideal co-parents to Rachel in this new community.
I honestly never thought I would return to this family in my writing--it took so long to write the book and I saw it as the end of a long journey and a farewell to these characters when I saw it published. But honestly, I miss them and the more I hear from readers about how much they enjoyed them too--I've been taking notes on what would be a kind of sequel --probably dealing with just a single character (very possibly Brick)--would that be of interest? h

message 10: by Lea (new)

Lea (vagabondia) I think one of the things I love about reading is slipping into another time/world/life for a bit of time, but when it is over-- even if the ending was satisfying-- I always feel a pang of loss that these people who have become a part of life are now gone from it. It is nice to be able to check back in with them from time to time, just to see how they are doing. ;)

message 11: by Lea (new)

Lea (vagabondia) Oh yeah, and regarding Aunt Loretta and Nella, YES! I think Loretta would have given Nella that little bit of support she needed to be a strong, independent woman. Both women are so inspiring and represent a very real portrait of the time yet remain relevant for today's reader. Their imprint on Rachel is so strong and I mourn for her that she could not have them in her life for longer.

message 12: by Shantae (new)

Shantae (jewel85) | 1 comments I also agree that a sequel with Brick would be great!!!

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