Friday, March 25, 2011

Rae Meadows

From a Q & A with Rae Meadows about her new novel, Mothers and Daughters:

What was your inspiration for Mothers and Daughters?

I wanted to write a novel from three perspectives, and when I learned of the orphan trains, which ran from 1854 to 1929, I knew immediately that one of the characters would be eleven-year-old Violet at the turn of the century. At the time I thought I would write the whole novel as historical fiction, and I set out researching the Wisconsin Insane Asylum and the Civil War. But then I became a mother and everything changed. Motherhood became the lens, and the multi-generational story fell into place.

Tell us about the orphan trains and how you first learned about this little known slice of American history.

My mom first told me about the orphan trains, and I was amazed I hadn't heard about them before. In the mid-nineteenth century, tens of thousand of children roamed the streets of New York City. Charles Loring Brace, founder of the Children's Aid Society, decided to put them on trains and send them to new Christian homes in rural America. People could just show up at a destination and take a child, no questions asked. What a fascinating, yet seemingly little known part of our history. I think of the orphan train riders (an estimated 150,000-200,000 of them) as part of a quiet diaspora, deposited in new places without any prior arrangements or oversight. The belief that a child could be...[read on]
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--Marshal Zeringue