Writer’s book has ‘powerful’ message on dealing with an alcoholic parent

Marney Rich Keenan
The Detroit News

After two years spent writing her first novel for tween readers, Jody Lamb flew to Los Angeles to shop her manuscript at the annual conference of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.

“I sat down with one of the editors from a top publishing house in New York City, so excited to sell my book,” Lamb remembers. “And I was immediately shot down.”

Lamb was told that if she wanted to publish anything, “I needed to write about vampires and wizards.” She promptly returned to her hotel room, whereupon she collapsed on her bed and had a good long cry.

Even so, Lamb, 30, did not give up. Motivated by a desire to help young people growing up with the burden of an alcoholic parent, she returned to her home in Whitmore Lake and forged ahead with her plans to publish.

“I come from a very large, lovable, wonderful family in which alcoholism is a major problem,” Lamb says. “Growing up nobody talked about it. For the longest time, I suffered in silence. I thought I was alone.”

“Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool” (Scribe, 2012) is about a 12-year-old, socially awkward, straight-A student whose plan — “Operation Cool” — is to reinvent herself.

When a nice, new girl in town becomes her longed-for best friend, Easter begins to blossom. But at home, Easter’s mother’s behavior threatens to derail her progress. She is drinking nonstop, hiding bottles and is always in bed, “not feeling well.” Easter works double-time to cover for her mother, cooking and cleaning, trying to keep up appearances.

Jerry Moe, Betty Ford Center’s National Director of Children’s Programs in Rancho Mirage, Calif., says the book is “a very powerful read” and “provides a message of hope.”

Indeed, there are plenty of how-to recovery books from groups like Alateen and Adult Children of Alcoholics, but Lamb sensitively handles the complicated dynamic that is the alcoholic mother.

“That was one thing I really wanted to convey,” Lamb says. “I did not want to vilify Easter’s mother. That portrayal of the alcoholic always bothered me because I know there are so many wonderful loving parents who become different people when they are battling this disease.”

A 2011 report from the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism said an increasing number of women drink in a way that “threatens their health, safety and general well-being.” It is also estimated that 1 in 4 children grow up today with an alcoholic parent.

In addition, there is lots of anecdotal evidence that cultural trends tend to minimize the risks of moms imbibing. To wit: The Facebook pages “OMG I need a glass of wine or I’m gonna sell my kids” and “Moms who need Wine” are liked by 115,000 and 600,000 followers respectively. Also, a new line of red and white wines, “MommyJuice Wines” has an ad campaign that mimics McDonald’s: “Moms everywhere deserve a break. So tuck your kids into bed, sit down and have a glass of MommyJuice — because you deserve it!”

In February of 2012, Lamb met with Jennifer Baum, a Royal Oak author and editor who recently founded Scribe Publishing, a small, independent, trade publishing company in Royal Oak. Baum says that even though she hadn’t intended to publish for the 8-12 age market, “I loved the voice the story was written in and it was clear how passionate Jody was about helping kids cope with alcoholism.”

Lamb says her family’s reaction has been mixed.

“I am not Easter, but I have several aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins who battle this disease,” she says. “Some have been successful and some have had brushes with death. So, some were extremely supportive and proud, and others have felt very uncomfortable with this family secret being exposed. And that’s a big part of the problem. Nobody can help if it’s kept a secret.”

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