When I was carrying my 5th child, whom we later found out is developmentally delayed and suffers from hyperacusis and light sensitivities, I read a book about a family’s journey with Down Syndrome. Even though I did not have a child with special needs at the time, this book gave me a greater understanding and more compassion for people living with special needs, as well as for those parents raising children with special needs.
I am so excited to tell you today about the book Sun Shine Down: A Memoir! As a parent of a child with special needs, this book caught my eye immediately because it is a memoir. I really love to hear others’ stories anyway, and knowing that Gillian would be telling about her journey with her daughter with Down Syndrome made me want to read it all the more.
My excitement about Sun Shine Down: A Memoir comes from that place. I am thrilled about the possibilities this book has to enlighten society about the struggles parents and children go through when learning about any kind of special needs diagnosis. Through reading Gillian’s book, my hope is that you will gain a new perspective about the difficulties involved in working through the many therapies, appointments, and daily struggles and successes that many truly cannot understand about special needs families unless they have walked the road themselves.
Gillian has been kind enough to send me the answers to frequently asked questions about her book and her family, about motherhood, and about Down Syndrome. It is my pleasure to share them with you here in a three-part series.
1. Why did you decide to write this story?
E. M. Forster said, “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?”
I am a life-long journal keeper, but after the birth of my third daughter and her diagnosis of Down syndrome, writing became necessity. The first year of her life I wrestled a hallowing grief over the child I expected and the mother I was to become on the page. My journaling delved deeper as my daughter grew. Images, situations, and details bobbed up to the surface of my conscious. A fear of brokenness; broken people, broken things, and ultimately, my own broken heart, had been tucked inside me since childhood. I wrote, and a thought nagged. Perhaps these words were meant to be read by others? A memoir emerged.
2. You are a pastor’s wife. Was it difficult to share the hard parts?
While I was writing, and throughout the process, no. But I have to be honest, once the book published, and my struggles and sins were out there for all to see, yes. In the beginning though, when my husband Sergei and I agreed I would mold my writing into a book, we also agreed I absolutely had to share the hard parts. Without hard parts, the good parts aren’t as good. Without darkness, the light is not as bright. Grace lives in the hard parts.
3. What do your husband and children think of the memoir?
They are excited and supportive. My daughter Zoya told me the other night, “I don’t know what I am more excited about, Mom. The fact that you published a book, or the fact that my name is in it.” I’m thankful they are fans of my words.
4. Why do you think the genre of memoir is important?
Memoir is an important genre culturally. Think about it, with all the reality television shows in the last ten years, it is obvious people indulge in voyeurism. They seem to crave day to day life. Memoir, in my opinion, if it is well written and honest, is a perfect medium for our culture. I expect memoirs to continue to sell well and grow in readership.
5. You share some strong images in the book. Can you recall one and discuss the importance of it?
Um, no? Sorry. My head is spinning and I can’t think of anyone off hand. Maybe a reader can share an image that stands out to them ;).
6. Do you miss Ukraine? Will you ever go back to live there?
Yes, our whole family misses Ukraine. We would love to go back, but when Polly was around three years old she suffered a massive stroke and was diagnosed with a second syndrome called Moyamoya. She endured two brain surgeries and is doing phenomenally well. But chance of stroke is there, and so it is best for us to stay in the States. That said, if we hear from God and he tells us to go, we will listen. We also plan on short term trips, especially to facilitate seminars and support groups for families who choose to keep and raise their children with special needs in Ukraine.
7. What are you working on now? Will there be another book about your adoption?
Right now, I am working on two projects. My agent is waiting on a book proposal and sample chapters about my personal struggle with depression as a pastor’s wife and a missionary. With this project, I hope to convey that just because people of faith struggle, it doesn’t mean they are not people of faith. I also have about sixty pages of Evangeline’s (our adopted daughter with Down syndrome) story written. I do believe those who loved Polly’s story will one day (God willing) get to read Evangeline’s story as well.
8. What is the main takeaway of this book?
Goodness, tough question. What is the main takeaway? I think that depends on the reader. The essence of Sun Shine Down is this: I didn’t want my baby with Down syndrome, and now I can’t imagine life without her. The takeaway could be many things. I’ll let the reader decide their own takeaway.
Would you like to order a copy of Sun Shine Down for yourself? It is available on Amazon.
Be sure to read the 2nd part of this Q & A, Sun Shine Down: A Memoir~Author Gillian Marchenko About Motherhood.
In the meantime, if you would like a chance to win your own copy of Sun Shine Down, click on the links below!
Gillian Marchenko is an experienced writer and speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and four daughters. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Gifted for Leadership, Literary Mama, Today’s Christian Woman, Charlottesville Family, EFCA Today, and the Tri-City Record.