I went to Atlanta last weekend to help my friend, Mark David Gibson, launch his memoir, Served in Silence. It’s a riveting coming of age story. Mark’s message encourages readers to embrace their authentic selves. He has been able to give us the inside story on what happens when we are stifled and unable to be who we truly are, afraid of what will happen if others know our truth. It takes courage to tell this story, but Mark does it, acknowledging the roles of others along the way.
There are parallels between Mark’s real life story and my character, Birdie Barnes, in Birdie and Jude. Birdie is hesitant to reveal her true self. She has lived a life unfulfilled because of the expectations of others—expectations she couldn’t meet. There is a tradition in her family for females tied closely to their social status in the community. However, Birdie is embarrassed by their prestige. In the late 1960’s, at a time of protests and civil disobedience, Birdie is drawn to use her voice to demonstrate for the causes of others not her own. To tell the truth about herself isn’t an option, or not one Birdie has the courage to undertake.
Birdie’s friend, Henry, is her only safety. She can be herself with Henry. He attempts to get Birdie to spread her wings and challenges her to swallow her stubborn notions and meet her family halfway, but Birdie doesn’t have my friend, Mark’s, willingness to please. She tends to run when confronted by her family, never communicating her real turmoil.
It’s not until Birdie has reached her golden years that she meets Jude, a young woman with her own secrets. Their friendship develops in a surreal fashion reminiscent of Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen. Birdie has an enlightening experience, reliving her past confusion, but also recognizing the time she wasted. There is a hush and recognition. One reviewer wrote: “Excellent characterization. I felt like I absolutely knew these two fascinating ladies. The theory that souls can return as new friends was very awe-inspiring - I really loved that!”
Writing this novel led me to the realization that we really are given many chances to make the right choices and discover our authentic selves. The truth is if we are not always present, we miss opportunities. Those opportunities will cycle around to us again, but in another form and may come to us in a setting and time when we’re ready to accept them. Another reviewer wrote: “Before you judge anyone, contemplate this: “...everyone filters their experiences through their own history. Whatever shapes a person, may never be known by anyone else.’ - from the book. Get ready to experience this story with your own filters. A must read!”
I hope readers will take this piece of fiction and apply it to their own lives, and it can be just as inspiring as Mark’s memoir. I think there was a reason we met on a cool spring evening at the Silver Dollar Ranch and talked well into the evening. He’s my Jude.