22 Oh, By The Way, Kim...

I indulged some private sentiments by basing the snapshot that Toland takes of his newborn daughter in SRB on the actual photograph that I took of my actual daughter in 1964 before she was given up for adoption, as is the fictional infant in my book.

Many people have asked if Stuck Rubber Baby is autobiographical, since everyone knows I grew up in Birmingham, which was notorious in the '60s for the kind of racial strife depicted in my novel. I respond truthfully that readers should never assume that any particular incident in the book is part of my actual life experience, since SRB is a big gumbo made of all kinds of ingredients, many of which spring fully from my imagination.

But bits of my life are definitely in there, and Toland's encounter with unintended fatherhood is one of them. Happily, my daughter Kim tracked down her birth mother and me when she turned 21, which was a welcome development for all concerned. She continues to stay in touch, and I have even became a granddaddy in recent years.

LETTER TO KIM (December 30, 1992)

… I told you in an earlier letter that [my graphic novel] is set in the South in the early ‘60s. What I hesitated to mention (because I didn't want to freak you out) was that the story draws much of its inspiration from my relationship with [your birth mother], and the growing up I did as a result of the many crises I confronted in 1963 – including the fathering of a child that I was in no position to raise. It’s fiction, and none of the characters match their real-life counterparts when it comes to specifics. But many of the feelings the story deals with relate closely to feelings I experienced as a college-age kid. Maybe when it comes out in 1994 my book will give you a few insights on those times and on some of the forces that brought you into the world.

As you can imagine, you've been on my mind more than a little lately. I hope you won’t feel weird about playing a tiny role in the creation of a work of art…