Cover Reveal of Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
I was delighted when I saw the stunning cover art that Penelope Dullaghan created for Lucky Broken Girl. Rather than depicting my protagonist—a young girl who is temporarily confined to her bed—the cover portrays the lush beauty of her imaginative world. Dreams and hopes literally burst forth from the apartment in which Ruthie is confined as she slowly heals and her spirit finds ways to soar and flourish.
Ruthie’s story is loosely based on my own. We had recently arrived in New York as refugees from Cuba when a devastating car accident occurred and I ended up in a body cast. I remember being told that I was lucky, that things could have been much worse. In other words, don’t ask for too much sympathy. So I buried the pain inside, where only I could feel it piercing me.
So many memories of my childhood came flooding back as I wrote this story. It was important to convey how difficult it is for a child to be patient and how scary it is to have to start all over again. I remember it seemed to take forever for me to rise up and walk. When, finally, I could walk, I seemed to take forever to stop limping. Healing is a journey and it takes its own sweet time. What a gift it is to get a second chance at life when the worst is past.
I wanted to delve into that time of extreme vulnerability, be that girl again, and let Ruthie speak for herself. Writing fiction gave me the freedom to shape personal experience into something bigger and deeper, a tapestry of diverse cultural voices. I discovered that to tell Ruthie’s story, I had to tell the story of all those friends and neighbors and family who witnessed her suffering and sweetened her days with books, art, and conversation.
Into Ruthie’s world marches a village of characters that surround her with love and light. There’s her pretty mother, who always wears high heels and lipstick and keeps alive their bond to Cuba; her hippie teacher, who helps Ruthie become more open-minded and forgiving towards the boys who caused the accident; her fun-loving neighbor from Mexico, who encourages Ruthie to paint and express her joy and sadness; her schoolmate from India, who gives her a necklace with a dancing Shiva to remind her that she will dance again; and there’s Ruthie’s Jewish grandmother, a two-time refugee, whose bravery is a source of inspiration. Thanks to this community, Ruthie is able to regain her optimism, acknowledge and ultimately release her pain, and appreciate the fragility of life.
Ruthie continues to live in me, the grown-up Ruth. Although I became a professor of cultural anthropology and am a woman who is always traveling, if I fall ill with a fever or if I am hurt by someone’s cruel words, I become small again and crawl into my bed. I become the girl in the white plaster cast, unable to move.
Even after you heal, if you’ve been broken, the memory of the wound remains. The good thing is it makes you more sensitive to the pain of others. I am grateful to have been able, through Ruthie, to express my belief that every child, no matter how broken, has the capacity to heal and express his or her full potential if given love, books, art, a sense of community, and the conviction that their lives count.
Lucky Broken Girl is Ruth Behar’s first book for young readers. Ruth was born in Havana, Cuba, and grew up in New York. She is an anthropology professor at the University of Michigan. Her honors include a MacArthur “Genius Grant,” a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Fulbright Senior Fellowship. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. You can find her online at www.ruthbehar.com.