Wednesday, May 4, 2022
In Conversation with Rachel M. Harper
Rachel M. Harper’s The Other Mother (Counterpoint) is a page-turning generational saga about a young man’s search for a parent he never knew, and a moving portrait of motherhood, race, and the truths we hide in the name of family. Jenry Castillo is a musical prodigy, raised by a single mother in Miami. He arrives at Brown University on a scholarship — but also to learn more about his late father, Jasper Patterson, a famous ballet dancer who died tragically when Jenry was two. On his search, he meets his estranged grandfather, Winston Patterson, a legendary professor of African American history and a fixture at the Ivy League school, who explodes his world with one question: Why is Jenry so focused on Jasper, when it was Winston’s daughter, Juliet, who was romantically involved with Jenry’s mother? Juliet is the parent he should be looking for — his other mother. Revelation follows revelation as each member of Jenry’s family steps forward to tell the story of his origin, uncovering a web of secrecy that binds this family together even as it keeps them apart. Moving seamlessly between the past and the present, The Other Mother is a daring, ambitious novel that celebrates the complexities of love and resilience — masterfully exploring the intersections of race, class, and sexuality; the role of biology in defining who belongs to whom; and the complicated truth of what it means to be a family. Harper will be joined in conversation by Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Red at the Bone.