The DMS was lucky enough to interview Christine Ieronimo. Margo recently introduced us to her new children's book A Thirst for Home, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! We are excited to learn a little bit more about her story. So, without further ado... take it away, Christine!
What inspired you to write A Thirst for Home?
A day after returning home with my adopted daughter from Ethiopia, I found her drinking from a puddle in our driveway. She came from a place where clean water from a faucet or well wasn’t available. She wasn’t upset but merely thirsty. Even though I knew she came from a village where there was no access to clean water, seeing her with her hands cupped squatting down drinking from that puddle was incredibly powerful. It inspired me to share the problems of unclean water around the world with children here in this country. I have woven the message into my story, A Thirst For Home, A Story of Water Across the World.
How long did it take you to write A Thirst for Home?
My first manuscript took about six months and then I began reading it to schools and any teacher and classroom that would have me. An amazing thing happened, the kids listened with wide eyes and big hearts always wanting to know more and always wanting to help. I then worked on spec with my editor for another nine months submitting three complete rewrites and about fifteen revisions. After all of that agonizing work, Walker, my publisher, finally decided to buy it. From start to finish, I wrote and rewrote for three years. The original titled changed as well. First it was Through Eva’s Eyes, then Drinking From Puddles and Finally, A Thirst For Home.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
My favorite first memory is my own mother reading me The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I remember sitting on her lap and sticking my fingers through all of those holes following the caterpillar path mesmerized by all of the beautiful illustrations. It is a magical memory for me. Eric Carle is obviously one of my favorite children’s authors. He is brilliant and I have created some wonderful memories with my children reading many of his books especially, the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I also love Rosemary Wells and spent many evenings snuggled in bed with my children reading about Max and Ruby. Lastly, I adore Kevin Henkes. Chrysanthemum is by far one of my very favorite books. It teaches children to love who they are no matter what. We are all special, even the names we are given. He is a gifted storyteller and artist. I love love love him.
You’ve visited villages similar to Alemitu’s in the story. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience?
Children in Ethiopia have lives that are much more challenging than children here in this country. Ethiopia is a country of farmers and the entire family, including the kids, helps. This is where they get their food, and sometimes children must walk far to collect water. Life isn’t easy here. But as different as children in Ethiopia are as compared to those in The United States, they are also the same. They love to play games and be with their friends, they love going to school, and they love their families. Just like us, they have the same hopes and dreams for happiness and success. Everywhere I went, I was followed by giggling and smiling children. These were children that had very, very little and were still very happy. It was humbling. Traveling to rural Ethiopia made me realize that we are all just one planet. Even though it seems we are so different, the truth is, we are really the same. In the end love and kindness is most important to all people.
You’ve spoken before about the beauty of the land in Ethiopia. How would you describe the scene?
During the rainy season and right after, May-November, it is lush green and gorgeous with a patchwork of hills. It is covered by Acacia trees with spindly green branches and flat tops and fields and fields of false banana, which have large leafy fronds. The roads are few and very windy. You will see people walking along the side of roads where ever you go with their packed mules or just the bundles strapped to their backs. It is a landscape that is simply breathtaking. During the dry season, December-April, the land becomes more parched especially March and April. There is more dust and less green. Water and the lack of it can be a problem since Ethiopia depends on rain for food and drink. A drought can be devastating. That is why water, rain is so precious.
If you could live any place in the world, where would you choose?
I love to travel. It is so much a part of me to explore new places and submerge myself into other cultures, but I love where my home is nestled in the hills of Connecticut. I am close to my beloved Rhode Island beaches and also a short commute to Manhattan. Those are two places that I have very deep roots. At the end of the day or after coming home from a trip, there is no place I would rather be than on my back porch among my flowers, gardens and birds with my family and two dogs.
Where can our readers go to help support your cause in Ethiopia?
I have started a project called The Gimbichu Project LLC that benefits Gimbichu, the village where my daughter was born. We work directly with the local health clinic and schools creating projects that are sustainable. I have learned that working with the community is best. Ethiopians know what is the best way to help Ethiopia. I have developed wonderful and trustworthy contacts in Gimbichu. We are always in touch. Our past and future projects are written about in my blog, I am very excited about our current project called The Mother and Child Project where we hope to build a culturally relevant labor and delivery room so that women will come to the clinic to have their babies in a safer environment. This idea was my friend Binyam’s who is the medical director at this clinic. It is proactive and can help to decrease maternal and infant mortality and obstetric fistula. We are planning to return in Spring of 2015. For more information about supporting The Gimbichu Project, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are there any more children’s stories you have planned for the future?
I am working on a second book presently about embracing diversity. It is inspired by my beautiful daughter and also her cousin Emily. It is a beautiful story about love, friendship and acceptance. It is actually Eva and Emily’s story. They have a relationship that is truly very beautiful. They could teach many adults a few things about kindness, friendship and loyalty! The kindness they have for each other will warm your heart. It is a sweetness and innocence that embraces true humanity.
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