Author Gillian Marchenko answers some questions about writing, Down syndrome, and her new memoir "Sun Shine Down":
1. Why did you decide to write this story?
E. M. Forster said, “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” I am a life-long journal keeper, but after the birth of my third daughter and her diagnosis of Down syndrome, writing became necessity. The first year of her life I wrestled a hallowing grief over the child I expected and the mother I was to become on the page. My journaling delved deeper as my daughter grew. Images, situations, and details bobbed up to the surface of my conscious. A fear of brokenness; broken people, broken things, and ultimately, my own broken heart, had been tucked inside me since childhood. I wrote, and a thought nagged. Perhaps these words were meant to be read by others? A memoir emerged.
2. Would you recommend this book only to special needs moms?
No, I think this book resonates with all sorts of people. Of course, special needs parents, but also anyone who has been taken by surprise in life. And who hasn’t?
3. Why did you share so many of your struggles in the book?
Once the book published, and my struggles and sins were out there for all to see, it bothered me that people would know. But in the beginning of the project, when my husband Sergei and I agreed I would mold my writing into a book, we agreed I absolutely had to share the hard parts. I’m a person of faith. Without hard parts, the good parts aren’t as good. Without darkness, the light is not as bright. Those parts are where grace lives.
4. What are the joys of parenting kids with Down syndrome?
Every milestone, no matter how small or big, is celebrated at our house. Polly is full of joy, and Evie’s smile can light up a room. My kids with Down syndrome (and my other two typically developing children) have taught me about kindness, trying hard, slowing down life, and being thankful for what we have. These were all lessons I still needed to learn in my thirties when Polly busted through.
5. What are the struggles of parenting kids with Down syndrome?
Health concerns are always in the back of our minds. Evangeline is nonverbal, and we are concerned we may never get to hear her sweet voice speak sentences. We find ourselves once in a while in the middle of something called chronic sorrow. Something comes up with our kids and we realize they do, indeed, have Down syndrome, and therefore life will be harder for all of us. Part of a life of special needs includes grief. It is a disturbing, but necessary realization. I don’t love my kids less. But do we struggle sometimes? Yes.
6. What is the main takeaway of this book?
Goodness, tough question. What is the main takeaway? I think that depends on the reader. The essence of Sun Shine Down is this: I didn’t want my baby with Down syndrome, and now I can’t imagine life without her. The takeaway could be many things. I’ll let the reader decide their own takeaway.
GIVEAWAY TIME! I have a brand new copy of "Sun Shine Down" to give away. All you need to do is leave a comment here on the blog and you'll be entered. This giveaway will close Wednesday, October 16; I'll choose a winner through random.org and notify the following day.
If you want to purchase a copy of the book, head here for both paperback and Kindle versions or here for Nook Book version.
Bio: Gillian Marchenko is an author and national speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and four daughters. Her book, Sun Shine Down, a memoir, published with T. S. Poetry Press in the fall of 2013. She writes and speaks about parenting kids with Down syndrome, faith, depression, imperfection, and adoption. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Gifted for Leadership, Literary Mama, Today's Christian Woman, MomSense Magazine, Charlottesville Family, EFCA Today, and the Tri-City Record. Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together. She speaks for the rest of us. Follow Gillian and her family at www.gillianmarchenko.com.