Featured Interview With Jordana Chana Mayim
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I was born in Philadelphia and not long after that, I dreamed of leaving it to see the world. The immense stirred my imagination: What was on the other side of the ocean? The small equally captivated me: Hours spent watching ants was time I considered well spent. By the age of six I knew I wanted to be a writer. Pen and paper, and later a succession of laptops, have gone with me everywhere I’ve traveled to, and thanks to my work teaching ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages), I’ve not only visited but also lived in many places. My experiences as a traveler, student, and teacher, in addition to an almost 30-year battle against depression and bipolar disorder, inform everything I write. – As does my conviction that to love is our greatest purpose and achievement.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I was probably fascinated with books from the moment my mother started reading to me. I started writing “books” when I was six. I still have the first two. 🙂
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
For poetry, my favorite authors are Rumi, Hafiz, and Mary Oliver. For novels, the list is much longer. My favorite genres are novels, poetry, children’s books, and history. Absolutely everything inspires me in my writing.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
I have two books out right now. The first is an illustrated allegory for adults and young adults called The Life of Zerah. Zerah is a little seed who dreams of becoming a Great Tree. But when the Wind carries him from the field in which he is about to root himself to a desert, a life unlike the one he had carefully planned begins, and everything he thought he knew about the world comes to an abrupt end. The questions that human beings have long asked: Why am I here? Is there a God? If so, how can cruelty and injustice exist? What makes life worth living? are all asked from the perspective of a seed trying desperately to become a tree and trying to comprehend the oftentimes incomprehensible. Parental love, faith, social injustice, and power are but a few of the topics that are seen through his eyes. Zerah’s struggle is our own. But beyond a spiritual allegory and a philosophical tale about what it means to be human, The Life of Zerah is, at core, a story about what it means to love and be loved.
My second book, Nikolas and the Misfit Shapes Find Their Place, is a children’s book, but it is meant to remind readers of all ages just how special they are, just as they are. Nikolas is a shape that doesn’t look at all like the circles, squares, and triangles around him. They all make fun of him because he doesn’t have a “perfect” form like them. Nikolas is sure there is a place where he fits in and sets off to find it. As he searches, he comes across other “misfit” shapes also seeking acceptance and they continue their journey together. In each other’s presence, they not only come to learn about the illusion of perfection, but also about the beauty and friendship that exist when one is brave enough to be themselves. As the title states, Nikolas and his companions do find their place, but it is nothing like they expected.
It took about a year to write Nikolas and the Misfit Shapes Find Their Place. The Life of Zerah, however, was a 14-year journey. I started it when I was 26 and in the midst of a horrible depression. While I sat on a park bench during a lunch break from a horrible job, I thought, “This is NOT what my life was supposed to be”. In the very next moment, a seed landed upon my lap and I heard him say, “And do you think this is the life I wanted? I was supposed to be a great tree!” I worked on The Life of Zerah on and off throughout my travels and many moves. At age 40, I finally finished it after rewriting two-thirds of the story in about six months.
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