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A local mother and daughter co-wrote a memoir about their shared experience with foster care

"Melissa Come Back" Authors Patrice Keet and Melissa Lahommedieu
"Melissa Come Back" Authors Patrice Keet and Melissa Lahommedieu

Melissa Come Back: A Gritty Dual Narrative Memoir was co-written by Patrice Keet and her former foster daughter Melissa Lahommedieu, both residents of Santa Cruz. The two were reunited more than twenty years after Melissa had run away from home. The book sheds light on the cycles of poverty and abuse that complicate the foster care system, through a personal story of resilience in trying to create a family, and find a home. KAZU's Lisa Ledin recently spoke with Patrice, the mother, in the KAZU studio. they began by discussing the book's subtitle.

Patrice Keet: The subtitle is "a gritty dual narrative memoir," and it is called a dual narrative, because every other chapter is alternating between Melissa and myself. And often the chapters are back to back around a particular event seen from each of our perspectives. Sometimes they're more in-depth about Melissa's life, which was extremely eventful and tragic, and my life, which was a little bit lighter. But also we weave those two together.

Lisa Ledin: How does this book shed light and shed hope at the same time?

Keet: It is a deep dive into the world of foster care and a trauma in a child's life, specifically child sexual abuse and neglect. And Melissa's words are amazingly evocative. It will put you in the scene in a way that can feel uncomfortable, but also very educational. It also chronicles the success that we had together and Melissa's personal success of getting out of all of the impediments to success: poverty, teenage pregnancy, diving into drugs, an abusive marriage. And that is overlaid on the traumatic abusive childhood that she had, as well as her experience on the merry-go-round of foster homes.

Cycles repeat, don't they?

Keet: They certainly do. And they're described in this book. And my hope is that people will see that cycles can be disrupted and it may take all of us adding our little piece into the almost empty cup of a needy child. And we can all put our little drop into that. Sometimes it will be a bigger piece with the goal that they'll eventually overflow and become who they were meant to be and manifest themselves. So this is also a book about resilience. Melissa started out with a resilient spirit, it looked like. And I know for her she thought she might not make it out of it. She faced severe despair, but she persisted, and having her children, ironically, gave her a reason for living. And she has always tried and has succeeded in providing a wonderful life for them, better than she had — by eons better!

And so it's a story of resilience, a story of hope, a story of making a difference, her making a difference. And now she has a very successful career, an advanced degree, and her children are well launched. I do not want to give away too much, but it has all of those elements in it.

Patrice Keet is one of the authors of the new book Melissa Come Back: A Gritty Dual Narrative Memoir. Keet, along with her daughter Melissa Lahommedieu, will speak about their mutual experience in writing the book this Saturday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. at Kelly's Books in the Watsonville Square Shopping Center.

Kelly’s Books is one of KAZU’s many underwriters.