Home for the holidays: C.M. Rubin

Best-selling children’s author C.M. Rubin, who is largely unknown in the Caribbean but is Guyanese-born, left British Guiana at the age of six, but she vividly remembers her childhood, from the street she grew up on to the interior design of the home she left and even where her aunt kept decorations for Christmas.

The unassuming, effervescent writer, whose infectious smile has warmed the hearts of orphaned and vulnerable children the world over, is widely known for her stories about a particular heroine, Ellie, who like the writer has touched the lives of countless children since the first publication a few years ago. Recently C.M. Rubin returned to her roots in Guyana for a family reunion of sorts and could not resist hanging out with a few children.

“It is amazing how I remember where certain buildings are and where I lived and how the interior of my home, which is still the same today, was designed. Though I had been away all these years I never forgot where home was but for a number of reasons I was unable to visit until now,” the author said.

Relaxed, smiling and hugging copies of her popular children’s books, the author sat down to talk with The Scene at Le Meridien Pegasus on Monday while on her first visit back to Guyana in 39 years. She readily admitted that her low-key visit was meant to blow over in a few days and then she would be back on a plane to New York where she currently resides with her family, hoping to visit Guyana again some time. But after visiting the Guyana Red Cross Society Convalescent Home for children and connecting with the group, she said, that all changed.

“I am just happy to have you here listening to me,” C.M. Rubin said in a strong appreciative voice. She then placed her books on the table, threw her head back, only losing eye contact for a few seconds.

Currently she is working on a third book in the Ellie series titled, Ellie in China. This follows the bestselling, Eleanor, Ellatony, Ellencake and Me and the hit follow-up, Ellie: The Perfect Dress for Me. Eleanor, Ellatony, Ellencake and Me has won Rubin several awards.

She describes Ellie as a precocious little girl, an independent thinker, who is also loving and kind and wants to make her own choices though respectful of advice. Somewhere in the character is a young C.M. Rubin, who like Ellie, was on a journey of self-identity while still young.

And as Ellie now begins her journey interacting with people from different backgrounds, C.M. Rubin said, she travelled while still young.

After her parents migrated from British Guiana they moved to the US then to England and later settled in the Middle East. She later moved back to England to begin a career in the film industry and for years, she worked in the business as a film producer.

The author recalled though that writing was her passion and after much encouragement from family and friends, she left England for the US to apply for a job at NBC. She had the interview but failed to get the job. She did not regret the move though because the interviewer later became her husband. Her ambitions to write were put on hold temporarily when she became a mother. She describes herself first as a proud parent, then as a wife and a writer.

While at home, she began writing and would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to put an idea down on paper. After a while, she completed a book.

It took four years before the book was published, but, according to her, it was worth it. C.M. Rubin recalled that the publisher decided to turn the book into a series and she later had two popular books. She is hoping the third would be just as well accepted.

Though writing is her passion, the author said she equally enjoys travelling. Since childhood, she has visited numerous countries but it is her recent trips to Africa and China that have impacted on her the most.

C.M. Rubin said she loves meeting people from various backgrounds and getting to know their cultures but nothing compares to meeting children who are in difficult situations who embrace her as though she is family.

More recently, she developed a soft spot for the children at Red Cross Convalescent home. She was so moved after meeting them and spending an entire day in their company that she went back a second time with toys. According to her, the whole experience was not planned but destined.

She is of the opinion persons in Guyana can take a few hours out of their day to spend some time with children in vulnerable situations.

Coming back to Guyana was another experience, which she said seemed fated. She said she could vividly remember where Singers, Fogarty’s, St George’s Cathedral and Bookers were situated. She also remembered her family’s home on Irving Street. The author related that she went back to the home and before entering, articulated the interior design. Much to her surprise and to that of the current owners, everything was just the same.

C.M. Rubin said she regrets not returning home sooner but she plans on making more frequent visits. She said Guyana is still as beautiful as she remembered, especially the landscape. What struck her the most, she said, was the warm attitude of everyone she met during her visit. She noted that Guyana has a negative image overseas but opined that in time that will change.

The author plans to introduce her books to Guyanese children some time this year after raising it with publisher and distributor, Scholastic Children’s Book Publishing. ianaseales@yahoo.com

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