As a federal attorney working in consumer protection, Vanessa A. Bee is a writer with a day job, and that’s no accident. As Bee recounts in her memoir, “Home Bound” (Astra House), throughout her peripatetic childhood she yearned for nothing as much as stability and economic security.
Born in Cameroon, Bee was adopted as an infant by her biological aunt and her aunt’s French husband; she grew up in France, England, and the United States. After her parents divorced, Bee said, she became her mother’s confidant, absorbing financial worries at a young age. “I became very aware of how fragile our economic situation was, she added. “Very early on, I remember thinking, OK, when I grow up I would like to not be this stressed out all the time. I have picked a lane that is very safe and very stable.”
Bee wanted to make sure her mother wouldn’t be embarrassed about the details she shared in the book — of government housing in France, or the crowded house in Reno, where she shared a bed with her cousin. “I’m proud of my background,” Bee said. “I wanted to make it clear that I have no shame around these things and my family shouldn’t either.”
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And it’s possible that Bee’s childhood, with frequent moves to new schools, languages, and countries, helped make her the writer she is today. “I think that skill of paying really close attention to my environment really has transferred into how I write about places, and about politics, and about people,” she said.
Her mother, she added, was always in her corner. “While there is some trauma in there, she really wasn’t the source of any trauma that I experienced,” Bee said. “If anything, I think the person I am today has a lot to do with the sacrifices she made for me.”
Vanessa A. Bee will read at 7 p.m. Tuesday in person at Porter Square Books in Cambridge.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at email@example.com.