NOTE TO READERS
In the Finding Home Series, Book One: Following Shadows, A World War II novel about Japanese Concentration Camps, the Impact on Families, and Triumph of the Human Spirit, the first novel in a series, I have created the Vanderveer family who gave each other everything—except opening up their past and their secrets to each other. In their silences they still had love and faith. In their silences they lost so much intimacy which could have been. When they nearly lose one of their own, all the family guardedness unravels and eventually knits back together. Only then does a deeper love, faith and healing emerge.
I don’t think there’s any novel quite like Following Shadows. Some memoirs come close but often suppress experiences and emotions under the weight of historical detail. I hope you will find Following Shadows to be a novel which can take any reader into a different world in order to emerge changed.
Following Shadows is inspired by my own story. As a survivor of an international childhood with parents who were World War II survivors, I know the generational after-effects of starvation and slave labor in Japanese concentration camps for my father, and the terror of Nazi occupation for my mother. I know the challenges of struggling to feel at home across three countries: The Netherlands, Iran and America. All along, my World War II trauma-survivor parents shared their pride over what they and others overcame. Both my parents lost their childhoods to WWII, and especially my father left a hole in his history—his three and a half years in the concentration camps in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).
Contemplating the strengths, fears, faith and hopes of such a background led me to tell the story of a family searching and healing in a fictional format. So, in the last decade I started Following Shadows, traveled to my birth country (The Netherlands) and experienced my father’s death. He died without ever telling any immediate family member what he went through as a survivor of WWII Japanese concentration camps in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). Most Dutch survivors could not return to their Indonesian homes. Instead, survivors were slowly repatriated to the mother-country, The Netherlands, which they had never considered their home.
I knew that intergenerational stories of uprootedness, and the untold history of all these survivors needed to be told. I wrote into Following Shadows the generational impacts of starvation and slave labor endured by my father in Indonesia, and the terror my mother felt in The Netherlands during endless Nazi razzias to seize her father and other able-bodied men.
I was born and raised first in Holland (the Netherlands). Later we lived in Iran where my father worked for Dutch Shell Oil. My baby sister and I enjoyed the Dutch/British/American community, my father’s Iranian students, and a semblance of the colonial life that my father had, when young in Indonesia. By 1963 Iran became dangerously unstable, foreshadowing the next forty years. We returned to The Netherlands, waiting to move to America. We arrived to our American dream in 1964.
I work as a psychotherapist. Yet, despite rich exposure to counseling theory, and a willingness to seek therapeutic help myself, no professionals ever discussed with me the generational aftereffects of trauma. Gradually I realized I didn’t make the connection due to lack of knowledge. In my thirty years as a clinician, I have specialized in the treatment of trauma, how people experience the unspeakable, and how we heal. I also have over forty years of personal twelve step program experience.
Today I think of universal stories of love and connectedness, enjoying life in the outdoors in Northern California with my husband, son, “soul-family” (friends). I treasure the love which stretched all around the globe and visit extended family in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands whenever possible.
“Jakobs eyes held Mammie’s for a long time. He felt a cord of love from her eyes to his, sending him strength.”
Following Shadows Janneke Jobsis Brown