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Contextual Moments Blog

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Childhood Musings

Childhood Musings
by Irmgarde Brown

While promoting my first novel, Sister Jane, many people asked me if the story was true. Or worse, they’d ask if it was my life story. The answer to both is “No.” Those questions caught me off guard. If the story was true (in a factual way), wouldn’t we have heard about a miracle worker who had a “batting average” of 1000? And if it was my story, would I be out here hawking a book instead of hanging out with sick people? I’m being ultra-catty, I know, but honestly. 

Who are the Orphans?

Who are the Orphans?
by Irmgarde Brown

I am an orphan. But then, most people my age are. It’s the natural flow of life, children outlive their parents, and the baton is passed.  

My father died when I was nine and apparently, in that moment, I became a “single orphan.” I didn’t know I had a label, but I certainly knew what it was like to be raised by a single mother. In some ways, it was for the best. My father was twenty-five years older than my mother, and I believe the speed of change for a non-English speaking older gentleman would have become more challenging than bearable. It was hard enough for mother to keep up, but she did keep up until 2004, dying at ninety-one.  

Elizabeth Gilbert and Me

Elizabeth Gilbert and Me
by Irmgarde Brown
I may regret stepping into the mire of Elizabeth Gilbert’s most recent debacle over the delayed (or indefinitely suspended) release of her latest book, “The Snow Forest,” that was slated for the spring of 2024. My understanding is that the book is a family saga set in the 1930’s in Siberia, a far cry from the Western border of modern-day Russia where hell is being poured upon the Ukrainian people. And yet, because of indiscriminate “review bombs,” Ms. Gilbert has felt impelled to pull her book amidst the controversy.

Genres. Who Needs Them? Do You?

Genres. Who Needs Them? Do You?
by Irmgarde Brown

We are in a culture of labels.

We label people and attitudes and houses and neighborhoods and cities. And of course, books. In some cases, I’m aware that labels can be helpful. I certainly appreciate finding the right size clothing and I confess, if I’m at the used clothing store, I gravitate to familiar labels/brands. I’m glad that foods are labeled with nutrition facts and whether they are spicey. I’m grateful for the “skull & crossbones” to warn me of poisons and toxic materials.

But honestly, haven’t we taken this labeling a bit too far?

Is This Book About Me?

Is This Book About Me?
by Irmgarde Brown

When I give my little “elevator” speech about Sister Jane, I feel compelled to mention that she is, a) an older woman and b) grew up in a small town.

One friend immediately asked me, “what’s older?” I’m afraid to answer that. I know, whether I like it or not, that I am considered older. My worst birthday year was not when I turned fifty, but fify-five. At that point (although I think this category has since changed), I would be in the great miasma of fifty-five and up. I would be in that last check box. Now, if that doesn’t make a poor girl feel old, I don’t know what does. I’m curious what you all think? And although the last check box has changed, I’ve managed to grow into that one as well.