LIC: Ross Kenneth Urken on Another Mother
Join Book Culture LIC on Monday, October 21st at 6:30pm as we welcome Ross Kenneth Urken for the launch of his memoir, Another Mother. This event is sponsored by Ten to One Rum.
After his cherished childhood nanny dies, a Jewish young man entering adulthood realizes there’s so much he has yet to learn about the woman who lent him her accent and with whom he shared an unlikely kindred spirit. Part memoir, part reportage, Another Mother is a story about family, an unlikely duo, and a woman whose strength held it all together. From New Jersey to Jamaica, Ross Kenneth Urken chronicles the life of Dezna Sanderson, the Jamaican nanny who had an outsize positive effect on his dysfunctional Jewish American family and his life trajectory.
An anchor in a volatile home – plagued by addiction and mental illness – Dezna became Urken's closest confidante and inspired in him a love of words and narrative. But she vanished before he could ask all the essential questions he wanted about her life – adult to adult. There was a tacit privacy agreement she maintained during his childhood, a sacrosanct code of silence. Her role was to maintain order in this American household while obscuring the chaos of her own past. Yet because she transcended the call of duty in her love and maternal care, the author finds that gag-order null and void. As redemption for his missed opportunity, he goes on a quest to find her through an authentic connection to her Jamaican homeland and her family members. He digs deeper into her family – the three loves, the eight children – and the hardships she faced in her native country – the poverty, the family pineapple business ravaged economically by a calculated CIA plot. After becoming a widow, she escaped to the country that undid hers in search of a better future – forced with the difficult decision of leaving her own kids behind to provide for them. In his quest for the truth of Dezna's past, Urken also encounters unexpected secrets and a spiritual Promised Land.
Ross Kenneth Urken is an American journalist who has written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, VICE, Tablet, National Geographic, Newsweek, New York, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The New Republic, Scientific American, the BBC, The Guardian, and Travel + Leisure. A graduate of Princeton University, he lives in Manhattan with his wife.