Jillian Lauren is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, which chronicles the 18 months Lauren spent as a teenage concubine in the harem of Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei. Her new book is the recently released memoir, Everything You Ever Wanted.
From her Q & A with Karen Halvorsen Schreck for The Rumpus:
Rumpus: Self-examination can be an exercise in navel gazing, but if you use self-examination to reach toward more universal themes, to reach toward a greater understanding not just of yourself, but of humanity—well, that’s the beauty of memoir, that’s the potential.The Page 99 Test: Some Girls.
Some Girls presents a notably unique experience, as does Everything You Ever Wanted. And yet you’ve said that hundreds of women across the country wrote to say that Some Girls was, in essence, their story, too.
Lauren: Obviously most people didn’t live in a harem. What the women were saying was that I had touched on themes and narrative momentum that they related to, and that they were able to draw parallels to their own life. I’ve gotten a few similar responses to Everything You Ever Wanted, but as it just came out, all of them have been from my friends. So we can’t trust those. We have to just wait and see what the general response is going to be. The book does explore themes of identity, belonging, family, and trauma. I do imagine that it will appeal to mothers, but, theoretically, it also should have a broader reach.
Rumpus: In your recent TEDx talk, you said this about identity and its formation: “If we look more closely at how adoptees assemble an integrated sense of identity, we can see that who we are and where we belong in this world are not just a function of nature or nurture. Who we are and where we belong is an act of imagination . . . We are the stories we tell ourselves.”
I find this statement both startling and liberating.
Lauren: The idea of identity being a choice is an absolute obsession of mine. It’s my great passion as an adoptee and an adoptive mom. I have so many influences in my life, and...[read on]