Have you ever experienced the sensation
of having lost your identity because you lost the country
where you were born?
I'm Laverne Boulogne Van Ryk, author of A Garland of Emeraldsand I would like to talk to you about how my novel came to be.
Do you sometimes feel you don't really belong anywhere? Do you have a problem with your sense of identity? If so, you may be interested in the way I dealt with that First I had to figure out what having an "identity" really means
I went back in my mind to the time I was growing up on Java one of the islands of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). I tried to figure out the connection between what happened there, and the way I feel now. For me, part of the identity problem stemmed from the religious and political situation in the Indies. There's more about this in the Author section of my website
My early life was split in half by the Japanese, who conquered what I thought was my native land. A few years later my blissful ignorance that I belonged in the Indies was shattered by the Revolution for Independence. I hoped to find myself after our family's repatriation to Holland, but that traumatic and irreversible cut from my childhood, with barely the clothes we wore, magnified every problem.
When Indonesia became independent in 1949 it stopped being my motherland. Holland was still in the middle of reconstruction, but their war had been a different kind of war and I did not feel I belonged. In Holland my identity got tangled up and almost lost in the shuffle of "cultural and social adjustment." In Canada my life became a copy of my former damaged identity which shimmered somewhere in the fog of Holland. We were the foreigners from the "Garland of Emeralds", that strange land across the sea. The fact is, the Dutch in Indonesia had become a sub-culture. I began to wonder who and what I was, yet I still hoped some day to find a place to belong. Emigration to Canada gave me hope, but my hopes did not materialize, and I accepted that I would never completely belong anywhere.
Since I am a person who likes journaling, I decided to write down things about my past. A Garland Of Emeraldswas an attempt to reconstruct my early childhood years, trying to define my sense of self. It was like creating an identity for myseIf, a way of dealing with the sense of loss. The novel became a symbol of the way I came to understand what identity means to me. Memories are a large part of the process of writing, which was my way of dealing with the problem I faced. In fact, I believe that memories are a large part of a person's sense of identity.
I decided to fictionalize my story, so fictional elements are woven through the fabric of my memories of that time. When I realized that I had experienced more than many people in Holland or Canada, I realized that the beauty of my birthplace far outweighed the ugliness of war and revolution. I began to take possession of my "Garland of Emeralds." Memories floated to the surface from before the war. If you are a person who thinks and reacts like I do, you may like to do the same: Write a book!
Some of my memories can be found in writing and in pictures on the Memoriesand Photos pages, and some information on my novel appears on the Book and Excerpts pages.