Get to know Pamela Becker, author of Memoirs of a False Messiah.
What inspired you to write this book?
I first moved to a small desert town in Israel in 1994, as part of a writer-in-residence program. I was living in New York City at the time, struggling with working a day job, writing short fiction and getting them published in tiny magazines. The clean, dry desert air was invigorating.
I had several projects in the works at the time and became introduced to the Black Hebrew community in a nearby town. The founders were originally from the US, and they had created a community of like-minded people. This caught my imagination.
What drives someone to create a community so completely different in belief and location from the one they came from?
Like my main character, I was educated in the New York City yeshiva world but was never comfortable with the “different but equal” role of women in Orthodox Judaism.
The more I learned about the Black Hebrews, one idea just led to another, and a Jewish woman, who may or may not be a false Messiah, was born…in my imagination and on the page until it all came together as my novel Memoirs of a False Messiah.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
What is more narcissistic than writing a memoir? Or thinking that God has singled you out?
The main character of Memoirs of a False Messiah is named MiMi – pronounced MeMe!
Mimi is often a nickname for Miriam, the name given to her beloved aunt. MiMi loves this aunt and could have easily grown up to be just like her if she hadn’t been compelled by a mission from God.
At first, I named all the side characters in the story after my sisters – I have four – just because they were far away, and I missed them. This way I was still “close” to them when I was writing. But then, just before I published, I changed them.
Tell us something really interesting that’s happened to you.
One of the most incredible experiences in my life was accompanying my sister to Moscow to adopt her daughter, then four years old. We had to stay all together in a hotel for a week, as my sister completed all the necessary procedures and paperwork. I was still breast-feeding, so I brought my youngest who was only four months old along with me. My niece didn’t speak any English yet, we didn’t speak Russian, and my baby son helped break the ice.
I had brought wrapped toys for each day we were together. The first time I gave her a box wrapped in pretty paper, she didn’t know what to do with it. She had never seen a wrapped present before, which stunned me, though I guess I should not have been surprised.
Each day she grew a little more comfortable with my sister, who was a first-time mom and adopting on her own. It was like watching a miracle slowly unfold.
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