I am often asked about the real story that inspired The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. I will never tell.
First, I feel incredibly protective of the real girl. Yes, there is a real girl out there somewhere. She deserves to live her life without a reminder of that horrible day, that horrible tragedy. And it's not entirely clear that she even would remember what happened. It's very likely that she suffered traumatic amnesia. And then beyond that--the story that I have written is not her story--I did try to do that initially but it didn't work. I didn't know enough about her. So I wrote about what I knew: I wrote about growing up black and Danish and feeling like America's ideas of race and culture divorced me from my mom because people couldn't see her in me.
I write this today because I woke up to read the horrifying story about the Harlem mother who jumped from an eight-story building with her baby in her arms and the child survived. I received a ton of messages from readers about the story. It was as if they wanted a moment to grieve with me because I understood what that meant because of my book. I'm not sure. But I was glad to get their messages and not feel so alone in the sadness I felt about another woman feeling so unsure that she could protect and take care of her child she thought it best to take him out of the world too.
This post is a bit of ramble--written in the heat of grief and bewilderment--but there is one message I want to be very clear: to any sleuthing readers who want to find the "real girl" who was the inspiration of the book. STOP! DON'T! Give her that gift of peace and of grace. Know simply that her story of survival inspired the survivor in me and maybe in you too.