For Mother's Day we caught up with Caroline Clarke, whose recently released memoir, Postcards from Cookie, details her surprise discovery of her birth mother, Cookie Cole, the daughter of Nat King Cole, and the relationship that blossomed between the two women in large part through heartfelt messages exchanged on hundreds of postcards. Clarke has held several key positions at Black Enterprise, including host of Black Enterprise Business Report, and is also a former staff writer for American Lawyer. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Smith College as well as a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
What's on your nightstand?
I've got Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, who is a neurologist. He never believed in near-death experiences, but he contracted meningitis and that changed his thinking. It's really fascinating. It's a great book to read before bed because you'll have good dreams. I'm also reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington. Last spring she gave the commencement address at Smith and this book came out of that. I had watched it online. It was about how her pursuit of success and having attained traditional success had her rethink the whole paradigm. She suggested to the women graduating that they really have to define their success, and that it has to be more than about attaining money. There's a need to prioritize to keep that sense of wonder. There's a need to step back and to even unplug sometimes. I thought for this woman who has created this dynasty of new media to say there is a need to unplug was really powerful. The last book I'm reading is Everybody's Got Something by Robin Roberts. In the book, she specifically talks about the year 2012 and her most recent battle with illness as well as losing her mother. She writes about how she made it through. I'm a huge admirer.
How did meeting your birth mother change your thinking on Mother's Day?
My mothers, both of them, did all they could for me. My mother who raised me was just the greatest mom. She taught me all the important things and exposed me to everything she could. ...What I realized when I met Cookie was that she had been thinking about me my whole life. Not just wondering what became of me, but she had been really praying that my life would become all that it could be. I really believe she participated in my life fully in that way. Although she wasn't physically with me, and I owe everything to my parents who raised me, I believe prayer is real and powerful. I believe Cookie's prayers were part of the reason that my life has been so fortunate, and I think of that with raising my own kids. As mothers we try so hard, but so much is beyond control.
Piper Castillo can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4163.