Our guest this week is Jennifer Klepper, the author of Unbroken Threads, a story about a former corporate attorney who volunteers to represent a young Syrian woman in her bid for asylum.
I first met Jennifer IRL at a writing conference prior to either of us having published books. Since that time, I’ve interacted with her in various online writing groups, and over the course of the years, I’ve come to realize she’s one of the most genuinely lovely people on the planet. She is always–and I mean always–looking out for everyone else, lending her time and her considerable talent to boost other writers. When her book arrived in the mail last week, I worried it might be dull or badly written, because it seemed too much to hope for that such a wonderful person could also be a skilled author telling a fascinating story about complicated, important current events. But, luckily, Unbroken Threads is a beautifully constructed, compelling read that no one should miss. Here’s the back jacket description:
Jessica Donnelly’s life is beginning to unravel. When the attorney turned stay-at-home mom tentatively volunteers to represent Amina Hamid, a woman seeking asylum, Jessica must learn an unfamiliar area of the law. Soon, rising opposition to Muslim immigration and unexpected prejudices put her relationships on shaky ground.
Amina fled Syria with little more than memories that now fight against the images splashed on the news. Seeking a secure future and freedom from guilt and grief, she must learn to trust others amidst the reality of fear and hate.
To find stability, Jessica and Amina will both need to harness their own strengths, which may lie in connections that transcend generations, cultures, and continents.
And indeed, both these women wind up aiding the other as their lives intertwine. I asked Jennifer, a lawyer whose career path has led her through the worlds of corporate law, tech startups, and court advocacy for foster children, to tell us a bit about herself and how she came to pen Unbroken Threads.
Kimmery Martin: You tackled an enormously impactful, complex subject: the crisis in Syria. How did you learn about this subject?
Jennifer Klepper: My main research focused on events in Syria and the asylum process in the U.S. I’m mindful that I am not an expert in these areas, which are ever changing–particularly in the past few years, but I can say I learned a lot and gained great empathy for the victims of the Syrian war and great appreciation for the efforts of organizations and individuals who work to provide assistance. An underlying theme of my novel is that we don’t–or we shouldn’t–live in silos and that recognizing how we’re connected with what’s going on around us makes life richer and makes us all stronger. At a personal level, the process of writing and researching Unbroken Threads did all that for me.
KM: Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
JK: Far From the Tree, by Andrew Solomon. This book introduced me to the experiences of parents whose children are different from them in identity–whether due to gender identification, deafness, sexual orientation, autism, and more. It was the first time I had seen some of these differences presented as “identities”, and it turned my world upside down. I believe it made me a more empathetic and kinder person. (I recommend not only the book, but Solomon’s TED Talk on the same topic. Bring tissues.)
KM: Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now.
JK: My husband is out on the porch right now speed-listening to Crazy Rich Asians so we can go see it at the theater tomorrow.
KM: Where do you love to be?
JK: On the beach in Naples, Florida, watching the sunset. I’m still amazed this spectacular work of art happens every night, and I could watch it over and over again. With a glass of wine, of course.
KM: Do you have any phobias?
JK: I have a fear of walking over sidewalk grates. I’m a mess in New York City and have to zigzag everywhere to avoid them. Fortunately, it’s hard to stand out for being odd in NYC…
KM: Has anyone ever thought a character you wrote was based on them?
JK: A friend texted me this week after she read the first page of Unbroken Threads, which referenced a character who shared her name. My friend asked if Reese Witherspoon could play that character in the movie. I didn’t want to spoil the book by revealing that the character never appears in the story, so I responded with an enthusiastic “yes!”
A Midwest native, Jennifer made stops in Dallas, Charlottesville, and Boston–attending Southern Methodist University and the University of Virginia School of Law–before settling for good in Maryland. When she’s not writing, she’s crossing things off a never ending to-do list and hoping to catch that next sunset. Jennifer lives near Annapolis with her husband and two kids.
Learn more about her–and find her book– HERE.