Saturday, June 8, 2019

Q&A with Susan Rudnick

Susan Rudnick is the author of the new memoir Edna's Gift: How My Broken Sister Taught Me To Be Whole. She is a psychotherapist and haiku poet, and she lives in Westchester, New York.

Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir about you and your sister Edna?

A: My sister was so important to me. Yet for most of her life we lived far apart, and in a way her life was invisible. Friends knew I had a sister, but often didn't even know her name. I wanted her to be visible. I wanted people to know how amazing she was, and how she had a profound impact on me.

Q: How was "Edna's Gift" chosen as the book's title, and what does that signify to you?

A: Edna's way of living was a gift to me and to everyone she touched. She lived without judging others, and gave me unconditional love. A rare gift, indeed!

Q: In the book's subtitle, Edna is described as "my broken sister." Could you say more about that?

A: Through a brain injury during birth Edna came into this world with mental and physical challenges. As a result she could walk , talk, and even read, but she couldn't skip, or jump. Her gait could be awkward. She had difficulty with abstraction. Yet she was often intuitively amazing about how to comfort people. 

While she sometimes had difficulty reading social cues, at other times she would say exactly the right thing in a conflictual situation. I end the book by saying she was always broken, forever whole. Because she deeply embodies both, just as we all do.

Q: The book also deals with your own diagnosis with MRKH, a condition in which a woman is born with no uterus; your adoption of your daughter; and your decision to pursue a career as a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist. How did you decide on what aspects of your life to highlight in the memoir?

A: So I wrote about my own brokenness and wholeness, because it was Edna who helped me cope. Not that she literally said things to me, but because of how she always loved me, no matter what. She never viewed herself or me as broken. So that was always there for me to learn from.  

Adopting my daughter was an important part of my healing process. And in a way both she and Edna have been my children. So then that felt part of my story with Edna.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Right now I continue with my practice of writing haikus, and then other short prose pieces.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I always knew Edna was important, but writing the book I really got just how crucial she was. Writing our stories is a deeply healing experience. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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