Helen and Gretchen Dumas Release Memoir

July 10
7:31 2014
Helen and Gretchen Dumas Release Memoir

Oakland, Calif.

"The Hummingbird Nest" is a unique artistic collaboration between a mother and daughter, Helen Dumas, a writer, and Gretchen Dumas, an artist. At its essence, the book is a memoir by the mother, who reflects on her life as seen through the prism of her relationship with her daughter, who is struggling with a life-threatening illness. The daughter's perspective is presented in short telephone conversations, which punctuate the mother's recollections, as well as by her paintings and drawings, which are inserted throughout the book.

As the book opens, readers will meet the mother as a chronically ill child immersed in books and romantic notions. They will encounter her German-Irish family and her musically gifted mother. She emerges from childhood to some success as a young poet and actress. The book chronicles her experiences in Europe during World War II as a young woman in the Red Cross and afterwards, as she pursues her dream of becoming an actress in Hollywood. There, she marries a charming and charismatic lawyer, who had been a Marine captain with 4 years of tough combat experience in the South Pacific. Her husband, who suffers from a non-diagnosed case of post-traumatic stress, whisks her off to live in a small town in Wyoming, ending her fledging acting career. She matures as she raises two children in Wyoming, Minnesota and then California with an erratic husband, who creates an atmosphere of perpetual insecurity.

In her 60's, she confronts the tragedy of her daughter's cancer (melanoma). Gripped by anxiety, the daughter incessantly telephones the mother, rebuking her for a lifetime of "co-dependence" and squandered talent. The mother defends her life choices, even as she comes to understand them more deeply. Anguished by her daughter's plight, she returns to her girlhood literary endeavors, searching for that personal voice that has survived the disappointments and compromises of a long life. In so doing, she resolves the challenge to her life thrown down by her daughter and rediscovers the redemption of art as exemplified by her own mother's tireless devotion to music, her daughter's new-found passion for painting, and her own scribbling.


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