I was so happy to pick up a copy of Being Lara at my local library. I recently interviewed the book's author, Ms. Lola Jaye, to get more insight on her work:
Rachel: Summarize Being Lara for my readers.
Lola Jaye: Lara had always known she was ‘different.’ At eight she finally learned the word ‘adopted.’ Twenty-two years later, a stranger arrives as she blows out the candles on her thirtieth birthday cake—a woman in a blue-and-black head tie who also claims the title ‘Lara’s mother.’ A woman the same shade as she and not like the adoptive parents she’d grown up with.
Lara, always in control, now finds her life slipping free of the stranglehold she's had on it. Unexpected, dangerously unfamiliar emotions are turning Lara's life upside down, pulling her between Nigeria and London, forcing her to confront the truth about her past. But if she's brave enough to embrace the lives of her two mothers, she may discover once and for all what it truly means to be Lara.
Rachel: What inspired you to write a book that focuses on transracial adoption?
LJ: In the last few years interracial adoption has been highlighted in the media (I believe such adoptions are more common in America than here in the UK). And I thought it was very important to not write about the ‘popular’ view – that all African children adopted from their homelands are from villages steeped in poverty. It seems to be a general view, that the child is from a poor family and the adoptive parents are people of immense material wealth and fame. So it was important that Pat, Lara’s adoptive mother, be a fading pop singer living in a little house in Essex and was more interested in watching the TV than appearing on one. Also, I myself have experienced the interracial experience growing up, so felt I could add some valid input to the story, however small.
Rachel: What do you hope readers take away from the book? What do you hope readers will learn from Lara's journey?
LJ: It is my hope that readers will feel the love these two women (Yomi and Pat) have for a child they both share. I hope that readers are also willing to appreciate the journey Lara takes to
‘Being Lara.’ That for all her hang-ups and insecurities, it is the choices of these two women as well as her own that have shaped her into the individual she is. That we as people are ALL a work in progress during our life’s journey.
The most significant part of the book for me was on page 150 when Lara (as a young girl) tells her adoptive mother that earlier that day, a stranger called her a nigger. Lara's mom shares that she was teased as a child for her "ginger hair." The mom goes on to say that Lara and "anyone of any color is beautiful. And if anyone ever tells you any different---you just let me know." Lara, who tends to be wise beyond her years at times, doesn't "feel right" despite the heart-to-heart with her mother and "in fact, she may have felt a little worse." Lara, who tends to be wise beyond her years, points out to her mother, "You dye your hair." Tell me why, as an author, you chose to include this in your book:
LJ: I remember including that scene after the first draft. I felt there needed to be a moment such as this that could be so subtle, so delicate but with the impact of an elephant! I wanted to depict the differences between these two character's way of thinking on such a HUGE issue. Two people, who love each other, are equal in the home, but who, as soon as each leaves the confines of that loving home, WILL be defined differently because of the colour of their skins. It needed to be subtle yet powerful enough to get the point across.
Rachel: Lara, upon turning thirty, reunites with her birth mother and meets, for the first time, her birth grandmother. You share the ups and downs of this relationship---the awkwardness, the surprises, and the beauty. My daughters have open adoptions with their birth families, something that many people do not understand. Why include a reunification in your book?
mean she’d be rid of all her hang ups – but it would certainly go some way to a few ‘wrongs being put right’ especially as there seemed to be an abundance of secrets and lies floating about from the past (I won’t say what these are, so as not to spoil it for those who haven’t finished the book). But yes, birth mother and daughter needed to be reunited within the context of this story. Lara needed to know certain aspects of the past, if she was ever going to find out what it truly meant to ‘be Lara’ -some of which only her birth mother could tell her.
Rachel: What is next for you? Any other adoption-themed books in the works?
LJ: Whatever I come up with next will have a strong relationship/familial theme. I enjoy writing about what shapes individuals, be it nature, nurture, or both.