By Jennifer Mooney
Hope, Interrupted; America Lost and Found in Letters (Orange Frazer Press, May 2021) is a cautionary tale of hope, fear, optimism, existential dread, and living.
Byron—a southern Black man and I—a northern Jewish woman, wrote this book in 2020, during six months of the pandemic, a failing economy, and the Black Lives Matter’s political unrest. We are average Americans, born two years apart, who jointly experienced family, working lives, marriage, health, and the future of a fractured nation. Written while distanced about 1,350 miles from one another, we explore the mood and attitude that traverses our country. Byron, an award-winning columnist and me, an award-winning executive with credentials in psychology, lean into hope and ask if there is or ever truly was, an “American Dream.”
Byron, my longtime friend and #brotherfromanothermother and I, sensed an inflection point. It was days after the murder of George Floyd, individual isolation, and concerns for our nearly-adult, and adult “children”—when we chose to memorialize the times in which we lived.
Our friendship included daily texting and ruminating on life, the news cycles, and our own challenges. Byron said, “Let’s start to write to each other daily. Let’s write letters.” I am task-oriented and said, “I will start tomorrow.” This tomorrow was June 6, 2020. We wrote almost daily, through the election, and put down our pens prior to the vote counting. Our publisher asked that we write again several months before publication. This included January 6, 2021, and the inauguration.
This included standing witness to a country contrary to the place that we inhabited for our 50-something years. We often asked one another whether anyone would find interest in two average people sharing our lives, our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, and our fears. We had editors who asked that we novelize our work. Some said to turn it into a serial. Many doubted us.
But as a Black man and a Jewish woman; we knew the drill. We were accustomed to closed doors. Doubt was something that ran deep in our DNA. With what one might call American grit, we continued to believe in the work and in one another.
Our “work” was published in early May 2021. No, we didn’t have the benefit of a large publisher; we had a small independent one who could accommodate an aggressive timeline and ensure our creative control.
Today, we often speak to work groups, the literary community, and book clubs. We hear from readers daily. Like us, they tell their own stories. We often learn that we gave individuals permission to speak their minds; to tell their own truth.
We have learned how others have prevailed through racism, bigotry, epic loss, and health challenges. We have learned that we have become a shoulder and a virtual friend. We continue to live in a fractured nation. While our election named Joe Biden as president, the divide is a vast canyon of difference in ideology and thought.
And yet, as humans we continue to share the same life challenges. As Byron has said, “Someone may be different than me, but I love my kids, he loves his kids.”
We have learned that relationships, authenticity, and meeting people where they are matters most. We are often asked how one should commence knowing individuals with diametrically opposed opinions. I have explained: “start small.” Bake cookies, take them to the neighbor with challenging opinions. Speak to the woman in the grocery store. Speak out. Stand up. Listen. Learn.
We have been blessed with reviews from other writers and leaders:
“What a treat… to, in a sense, be listening in on two people, of different life stories… sharing their thoughts in real time, of America under assault… the trifecta… the pandemic, a collapsing economy, and a virulent movement of white supremacy. Read this now and imagine what your great-grandchildren will be thinking if they’re lucky enough to read this. Will it be, ‘Gee, I wonder what that must have been like…’ or will it be: ‘Man, nothing’s changed.’ Hopefully, it won’t be the latter.”
Hope, Interrupted is available on Amazon and the podcast with weekly national guests, Hope, Interrupted, is on all major platforms. To learn more www.hopeinterrupted.com.
Jennifer Mooney is a Taos resident. She is a reformed corporate executive with scholarship in communications and psychology. Hope, Interrupted is her first book, co-authored with Byron McCauley. She is an active outdoorswoman and counts Rio Grande Del Norte as one of her favorite places.