Monday, September 28, 2009

A YES Interview with Rosanne Parry (Heart of a Shepherd)

Heart of a Shepherd
by Rosanne Parry

There aren’t that many books about military families. Author Rosanne Parry has written a beautiful one.

Heart of a Shepherd tells the story of Brother, who is left to run his family’s ranch when his dad gets shipped to Iraq.  It’s funny and quietly moving in a Where the Red Fern Grows kind of way. My favorite scene is when Brother gets in a fight with his older brothers (he has four of them!) and then has to stitch up his older brother’s scalp.

Rosanne was brave enough to be the first to answer my new "five question" YES interview. I'm grateful to her for saying yes.

NOTE: I also posted a mini-version of this interview over at, where I hope to feature more interviews with creative people who come from military families.  (Laini Taylor, I'm looking at you!)

1) How are you connected to the U.S. military?

I am the wife of an Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. I have many members of my extended family on active duty. Most are in the Army although there are Air Force and Navy servicemen as well.

2)  What's your favorite way to say YES?

Every day I get up in my tree house and sit down to write is its own victory. Many other things in my life seem more urgent than writing, and sometimes I’m not at all sure I’ll have anything valuable to write down, but I’ve learned that saying yes to writing time nearly every day leads to finished stories and eventually published books.

3) Did you have an inspiring/crazy/wonderful teacher? What was she/he like?

I had a history teacher who had a real passion for art. He made us take extra lectures in the evening for our Western Civ. class about the art, architecture and music of each historical era. It was fascinating to me to learn how the politics and economics of an era was reflected in art. Later in college I learned to connect literature and philosophy to their historical context. It was a lot of work to learn all the extra material in high school, but it’s been some of the most useful learning I’ve done in terms of putting a particular work of art or literature in it’s broader cultural setting.

4) Why do you say "Yes" to the work that you do and/or the causes that you support?

Gosh, there are lots of reasons to say yes to a great many causes. One of the frustrations of being a grownup is that I can’t say yes to every cause I care about. I think I say yes because my parents showed me how satisfying it can be to think deeply about the issues most relevant to their community and then do something about them.

My neighborhood of Oak Park, IL was not integrated when I was born, but my parents worked tirelessly to nudge that community in the direction of racial equality because they wanted every kid who grew up in Chicago to have equal access to the American dream—and guess what? One of those kids growing up in Chicago in the late 60s and early 70s was Barak Obama.

So yes, if I grow up to be like my mom and dad, caring about things that matter and doing my best to nudge my community in the direction of justice, well, I’ll be pretty proud of myself.

5) What was your "great battle" as a kid? Did you find anyone to help you with it?

Interestingly enough I had quite a battle with that history teacher I mentioned earlier. In addition to being a teacher, musician, and art lover, he was a bigot. He often said racist things and was very scornful of Catholicism. When he taught some things in class that were outright lies about the history and doctrines of the Catholic Church, I decided to confront him about it.

My parents helped me get in touch with some theologians and the chancellor of the archdiocese. These people helped me look at the documents my teacher was looking at that supported his beliefs. They also showed me the primary source documents that I could use to refute my teacher’s misunderstandings. It was an important lesson for me in the use of primary and secondary sources, something my history teacher overlooked but I’ve been mindful of ever since. These mentors also helped me understand the history of anit-Catholic sentiment in Oregon. The first priests to come here in the mid 1800s spoke French and came to serve the French trappers and their Native American wives and children. So the bigotry is as much about racism as it is about religion. In the end, I doubt I changed my teachers mind, but I did learn a lot about addressing injustice with facts and persistence and good manners.


  1. Oh, wow. What a great interview! I loved this book, so I'm glad you've given it attention!

  2. Great idea for an interview series. Thanks for featuring Rosanne today. I'm intrigued about Heart of a Shepherd!

  3. Thanks for the opportunity to share your blog space, Sara. I've done about a dozen of these so far, and this was a very thought provoking interview. It's nice to see a fresh approach.

    I will be seeing Laini Taylor at her Powells book launch for Lips Touch next week. I'll talk to her about your blog then. Susan Vanhecke with Rock and Roll Soldier would be another great choice. She's at the Authorlink website.

  4. Great interview! good luck with the poetry panel


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