An interview with Among Animals contributor Rosalie Loewen (“The Boto’s Child”)
Q: What inspired “The Boto’s Child”?
A: I wrote this story when my first child was still very young. For me parenting is joyful and rewarding but also frightening and painful; from the birth onward, there is the wrenching process of letting your children go. As a new parent, I felt intensely aware of how miraculous and impossible each of our lives are in so many ways. Writing this story was an attempt to come to terms with these diverse aspects of parenting.
Q: The story is set in the Amazon and is so vividly detailed—what sort of research did you do to write this piece?
A: I lived in Brazil for two years. It is such a fabulous welter of color and culture and beauty that no one can live in Brazil and not absorb it. While I lived there I took a trip on the Amazon which serves as the basis for the setting of this story. My family travelled frequently when I was young and my parents always immersed us in the cultural and natural history of a place. This became a habit and I still travel with a field guide and generally trade comfort for immersion.
Q: The narrator believes that “a doctor should be the first to admit how little we understand about the mysteries of life”—and this story is filled with such mysteries. What do you hope readers will think and feel after reading “The Boto’s Child”?
I hope that this story reminds readers that the limitations that we place on our perceived realities are subjective, informed by where we are in both place and time; change either of those and you could be equally convinced of some alternative truth.
Q: Why did you decide to incorporate a Brazilian myth into this story?
A: For me, everything in the natural world is fraught with wonder and fabulousness, from the smallest details: a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, a child growing in the womb, a seed becoming a plant. Myth, religion, folktales, these are universal tools for expressing that wonder and dealing with our limitations of understanding.