“The Box of Daughter” is an honest and captivating look into the life of someone who has undergone the dreadful experiences of dealing with overtly oppressive parents and complex familial situations. By the end of the book, the reader is both inspired and awe-struck at Katherine Mayfield’s sheer strength and determination to overcome the mental and emotional abuse she suffered.
Katherine, by the end, comes out as a new person, forming an identity that she never thought was possible. Though she notes that the journey for her has not been easy, Katherine Mayfield gathers the courage to experience a life for herself outside the “Box of Daughter.”
In her critically-acclaimed, Readers Favorite Award winning memoir, Katherine Mayfield illustrates a life drowned in both sorrow and pain and the fifty year journey of someone who eventually found her way out of the shadows of despair and into the realms of self-acceptance and peace.
After reading this book, the reader was captivated and encouraged by Katherine Mayfield’s enduring struggle towards fulfillment and self-acceptance.
1. The book opens up with a poem you wrote in 1999 called "The Box of Daughter." Why did you think including this poem in the book was important?
A. In my mind, this poem describes my experience as a child in a nutshell, and I wanted to give the reader a sort of overview of what the book is about. A lot of women have told me that they really relate to the poem -- the role of daughter often holds us back from exploring life to its fullest until we "break out of the box" and begin to find out who we are underneath the role.
2. In Chapter 3, you say that as a little girl your family would take you to church and you loved the bathroom more than any other place. For those who haven’t read the book, could you elaborate on why you felt so extraordinary in a place many people would deem as ordinary?
A: I know, it's a little odd! My family life was very chaotic and confusing, and the bathroom in the church was always very clean, there were fresh flowers, and the sun slanted through the windows in a way that made me feel like angels were riding down the sunbeams. There was a lovely sense of spaciousness, peace, and organization that I rarely found anywhere else. It was just a "perfect room." Plus, my mother was quiet and calm in there, which was very unusual for her.
3. You also express your love of cats in the book. What is your favorite cat breed?
A: The last two cats I've had were gray tabbies with tortoiseshell markings --lovely in looks and personality. What I love most about cats is that they are both very affectionate creatures and fierce hunters, which makes me realize that it's okay to have many varied facets to my personality instead of just living a narrow life.
4. In Chapter 6, you write about personal emotional wounds concerning your parents saying, "Their own tragedies were never fully told, so they never got free of the past" (87). Do you think families would be more open if parents explained how they overcame past tragedies with their children?
A: I think that would be helpful to some degree, but I would caution parents against laying the brunt of their tragedies and their feelings about those tragedies on the children. If there is unresolved grief or anger, I believe parents should find a way outside of the family to deal with that, through therapy or support groups, etc.
5. You also mention that people are afraid of looking at the shades of gray in any situation. Why should we not be afraid to look at the shades of gray?
A: I think everything in life is composed of shades of gray! I don't know whether there's really anything I could put my finger on and say, "It is this way, and it will always be this way." Everything is changing, and the more we go along in life, the more we learn and expand. People are sometimes afraid to look at shades of gray because then they have to make choices and decide on their own values. It's much easier to just say, "This is the way it is" -- but then we cut ourselves off from larger possibilities.
6. California seems to be a place in the book where you really realized your passion for performing before moving to other places like St. Louis and Denver. Performing must have been really fun for you?
A: Yes, it was -- work and fun mixed together. It helped me find out who I was outside of the box of daughter, and it taught me all about emotions. I didn't learn much about them when I was a child, because we weren't supposed to have them in my family. But I had them anyway, and that confused me -- I thought I was wrong for having feelings. My acting experience, and later life experience, helped me realize how very normal it is to have feelings!
Bio: Katherine Mayfield is the author of the award-winning memoir "The Box of Daughter: Healing the Authentic Self"; two books on the acting business: "Smart Actors, Foolish Choices" and "Acting A to Z", both published by Back Stage Books; and the Kindle book "Dysfunctional Families: The Truth Behind the Happy Family Facade."
She has written for national magazines, local newspapers, and numerous websites, and blogs on Dysfunctional Families on her website, www.TheBoxofDaughter.com. Her next book, "Bullied: Why You Feel Bad Inside and What to Do About It," which will be published in late spring, will help teens who have been bullied recover from the trauma. Follow her anomalous musings on Twitter at K_Mayfield, and on Facebook at KatherineMayfieldauthor.
Come back next week for Part 2 of Katherine Mayfield’s enthralling interview.