Friday, June 28, 2024

Q&A with Penny Lane




Penny Lane is the author of the new memoir Redeemed: A Memoir of a Stolen Childhood. She lives in Mill Valley, California.


Q: What inspired you to write Redeemed, and how was the book’s title chosen?


A: I have always loved books in a way that was almost sacred--they were my first friends. They kept me sane during my abusive childhood.


When I was a child, I was so incredulous and angry at my repeated abuse, at my stepmother’s sheer meanness, that I wanted to write a book so everyone would know how I was being treated.


Of course, I never did, but as I stopped hiding it in my 30s, and told people about my story, they all said, “Penny, you have to write a book about this.” I heard that a hundred times.


To redeem means “to free from what distresses or harms,” which is how we came up with the title. My parents stole my childhood from me, but I redeemed myself from their hold. And in real life, I truly did. It’s really a victorious story.


Q: What do you see as the role of religion in the memoir, and in your life?


A: I thought it would be my “salvation,” and would provide the loving family I never had, but it turned out to be a false promise. I ended up more lost and abused.


I had to leave the (Evangelical) church, and denounce God, and abandon any faith I had in higher being or church to heal, to find myself and learn to depend only on what I believed or created for myself.


Then one day, decades later, when I was actualized, and had everything I had wanted and worked for (education, love, family, security,) I felt a pull toward Judaism.


I had always wanted to be Jewish because the Jewish kids were the ones who were nice to me as a struggling teen, and because I identified with injustice of what the Jews went through in the Holocaust. I met with the rabbi and read a few books before going to temple.


At my first service, I cried uncontrollably. Even though the songs were in Hebrew which I did not understand, and I did not know anyone there, I felt like I’d finally found home, that these were my people--the place I had longed for my whole life. A place where I fit, belonged, and was unconditionally accepted. A faith that came from inside me, as opposed to dictated externally by someone else.


I was finally home. I was complete. I had taken myself full circle--from lost child to lost Christian--to a home in Judaism.

Q: The writer Julian Guthrie said of the book, “The author's journey from victim to victor is a testament to the power of determination and our will to be happy.” What do you think of that description?


A: I think she was spot on. She and I were neighbors for many years, and our boys are similar ages so we were around each other a lot.


She was an investigative journalist, so she knew how to get a story out of people. She knew even before the book how hard I worked to overcome my odds, to be happy, and to give my son the love and security I never had.


I don’t know what motivated me through all those dark years of abuse, except that I knew how I was being treated was wrong, and I knew I wanted to be happy.


When I finally freed myself and started healing, I was way behind my peers in terms of education, relationships and stability. I had to undo all the damage the abuse did to me as a person, but I fought, struggled and sacrificed until I found my place.


I am far from perfect, but I have arrived at my destination. I am happy and successful, something my parents never were.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book, and what do you hope readers take away from it?


A: Part of my research for writing the book was creating a timeline of the major events in my life. As I did this, I was reminded of truly how much I have overcome, and it brought me to tears. It was a big reminder of how far I have come, and how triumphant I was over those terrible odds.


As an adult and parent, I was able to mourn that little lost girl as I couldn’t when I was in it. I felt truly validated, proud, and amazed to be alive and well, and not an addict or mentally ill because of my life.


I hope people are inspired by my story, to stop hiding their family or childhood, or any trauma, but to start talking about it, to trusted friends who won’t judge, who’ll comfort and support you, to find a therapist to validate and pick through what needs to be healed.


I hope people see they can overcome their trauma, abuse, or whatever burdens them at any age, and that they see that they get to define who they are--not their abusers, or parents, or spouses, that there is freedom, hope and healing from speaking out and telling our stories.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on getting speaking engagements to share my story, so thank you for this. I am setting up a few book tours to Colorado, Utah, and the East Coast, and learning how to parent my son who boomeranged home from college because he is just not ready yet. There’s no manual for this, we just go day by day, making the right choices to choose compassion and love as my guide.


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: Whenever I tell people my story--or people read my book--they start telling me about their trauma and abuse, or about someone they know who was abused as a child. I think this is more common than we know.


I think talking about it is important. It’s part of our mental well-being to tend to--to talk about--our hearts and minds and souls that have been damaged. We can’t be healthy or heal if we hide this stuff. We have to let it out, and when we do, the power and freedom we feel internally is amazing.


Invite me to your book club. I’ll go first, and we can all heal together.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment