Memoir Giveaway and Interview with Kristin I. Morris, Memoir Author of Jamarr’s Promise

by Matilda Butler on September 5, 2017

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #244 – Memoir Writing Interview – Matilda Butler



Interview with Author Kristin I. Morris

[BOOK GIVEAWAY UPDATE: Kristin has chosen Kay Whitehead as the winner of the comment contest. Congratulations Kay. Your book is on its way.}

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: Kristin, welcome to WomensMemoirs. We are a community of women writers who share our ideas, inspirations, and concerns about memoir writing. Every since I finished reading your book, Jamarr’s Promise: A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare, I’ve looked forward to talking with you and finding out more about your experiences.

Kristin, you have written a powerful story about a series of experiences that have profoundly changed your life, a story that has no conclusion at this point. I wonder if you would tell our readers a little about your memoir.


Kristin I. Morris, memoir author of Jamarr's PromiseKristin I. Morris: Hi Matilda. Thanks for inviting me.

The memoir tells of my time as a caseworker in the New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services, and the corruption I experienced there after the death of one little boy. In the beginning of the memoir, I share my experiences working with nine-year old Jamarr Cruz, pictured on the cover of the memoir. After a home visit, I knew that Jamarr could not be moved back into the home of his abuser … but my recommendation was denied, Jamarr was moved back, and was soon beaten to death in the home. From this point forward in the memoir, I share a very intimate journey of my depression and therapy sessions, of losing my job, of court trials, and of corporate cover-ups.

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: Your story leaves the reader in a state of disbelief at the callousness of agencies responsible for the care, for the lives of children. I know that writing a memoir can be an overwhelming task. I hope you’ll share why you decided to write your story.



Kristin I. Morris, memoir author of Jamarr's PromiseKristin I. Morris: It took me a long time to write my story. Jamarr was murdered in 2009, but the more I shared my story and told of the corruption I experienced, the more I realized that the story wasn’t just about me or Jamarr. I realized that this could happen to other children and other caseworkers, and hoped that publishing this book could help someone else in a similar situation.

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: Kristin, I’m so glad that you brought up the “why” of writing and publishing our life stories. We do want to help others, to let them know that pain is shared, to give them insights, to make people aware of situations going on especially if they aren’t well known. Memoir writing is about more than just about telling our own stories.

Working on a memoir brings back memories, some of which focus on dark times. What was the hardest aspect of writing your memoir?

Kristin I. Morris, memoir author of Jamarr's PromiseKristin I. Morris: There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t see Jamarr in my mind, and it was certainly hard to put my experience into words without reliving the pain. And, because I wanted to make the story as true to my memory as possible, I had to relieve the intimate details over and over. Even harder, though, was the thought that I was putting myself out there. People blamed me for Jamarr’s death – even though I did everything in my power to save him. After being through so much personal and political trauma which made me the target of many attacks, the thought of making my personal story public stalled me. Publishing my story meant opening myself to critique to an even larger audience. Thankfully, though, the feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive!
 
Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: You’ve raised a great point, Kristin. Memoir writers are willing, and have to be willing, to expose personal vulnerabilities with the hope that we can help others. The reward or return for our honestly is the many lives we touch and the support we receive from our readers.

My next question deals with healing. Although focusing on difficult life situations can be daunting, many believe that writing is healing. Did you find working on the memoir brought any healing to you? If so, in what ways?

Kristin I. Morris: Working on the memoir was absolutely healing because it gave me a concrete purpose: to bring justice for Jamarr. Although it was a difficult writing process, I knew I had to get my story out there so that people knew exactly why that little boy died.

The publicity process has also been amazingly positive: I’ve met so many other social workers and child care reformers who have shared their kind words and have helped me be proud of the good I have done, and it has inspired me to work harder to connect with my community. For example, a few weeks ago, I collected school supplies and volunteered at Jamarr’s school.

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: You know a lot more about memoir writing now than you did when you began this process. Would you share some tips or advice that may help other women who are just now starting to write or who are stuck?



Kristin I. Morris, memoir author of Jamarr's PromiseKristin I. Morris: Sure, Matilda. I have two tips I’d like to pass on it:

Tip #1: Know that your story is worth sharing! The more I thought about what good my memoir might do, the more it inspired me to write. Inevitably, it’s going to be hard, not only because writing can be hard but because it’s difficult to be so vulnerable.

For me, it took talking to someone else – especially Dr. Z, but also my family, friends, and some former co-workers – to help see why my story was valuable and how I could change others’ lives with it. So, my second tip is:

Tip #2: Talk through the process with someone you trust. This tips helps throughout the writing experience but is especially true if you’re feeling stalled in the process.

Matilda Butler of Women's MemoirsMatilda Butler: Thanks Kristin for talking with me. I appreciate you telling us more about your memoir, Jamarr’s Promise, as well as your perspective on memoir writing.

_______________________________________
More about Kristin I. Morris, the author of Jamarr’s Promise: A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare.

As a caseworker for DYFS, Kristin helped many children and families; it was her life’s passion. Nine-year-old Jamarr was living with his grandparents after his mother’s boyfriend, Vincent Williams, beat him repeatedly. Jamarr told Kristin it was not safe for him to return home. Kristin urgently tried to keep Jamarr safe with his grandparents, but was told by superiors that Latino children are kept in the home at all costs. This time, the cost was Jamarr Cruz’s life. In 2009 after Jamaar’s return to Omayra Cruz and Vincent Williams, Vincent beat Jamarr to death. Not only did Kristin’s superiors at the DYFS block her efforts to help Jamarr, but when he was killed, they blamed Kristin for his death.

Jamarr’s Promise is a call to end corrupt loyalties in New Jersey’s DYFS. It is a call to protect children from Jamarr’s fate. It is a call for justice for Kristin Morris, who did the right thing and was punished unjustly for it.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Matilda Butler September 5, 2017 at

Hi Kristin:
Thanks for this great interview. I so enjoyed talking with you and learning more about your story and your perspective on memoir writing.
Best wishes to you.
Matilda

Jackie September 5, 2017 at

I appreciate your willingness to be so open. I’ve worked in agencies that didn’t really understand the mission. It was more about the people at the top. Thanks.

Diana Y. Paul, author of Things Unsaid September 5, 2017 at

I have read of instances of the social services system failing the child in heinous cases before, but never from the perspective of the caseworker who suffers the tragedy too. I would love to win Jamarr’s Promise!!

Sara Etgen-Baker October 8, 2017 at

Thanks, Kristin, for sharing your life story and experiences. What an unusual and sensitive approach to exposing situations that are so pervasive in our culture. And, like you, I’ve worked with poor, wayward youth who got “lost” in an insensitive system. And the loss you feel when one of them dies is traumatic and life changing. I’m hoping your book be a “must read” for people preparing to work inside social institutions.

Kay Whitehead October 8, 2017 at

I was so moved just by your interview that I can hardly wait to get your book! I am a therapist, former hospice worker of 25 year, now in private practice. I have several clients who are case workers and child advocates, some who have quit for similar reasons. Your work is timely!! I hope to do my own memoir some day soon!
All peace to you, kay

Heddy Keith October 8, 2017 at

This is an amazing story. I’d like to read it some day.

Cindy Wilber October 8, 2017 at

Kristin, what a story! I cannot imagine what you have gone through reliving this experience again. I know with my own story it helped me to tell my story. Thank you for having the courage to tell your story. I look forward to reading it.

Lynn Jarrett October 10, 2017 at

Thank you for sharing the interview. I always enjoy learning about the lives of others.

Sallie Moffitt October 13, 2017 at

Thank you, Kristen, for writing this and bringing to light a big problem abused children face: the child welfare system is broken and no one cares. Many turn a blind eye, others ignore, but you wrote about it. You memorialized this young boys life with your words. Thank you for making a difference. You are a courageous woman. Keep writing, Sallie

Leave a Comment

Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category StoryMap Category StoryMap Category StoryMap Category Writing and Healing Category Writing and Healing Category Writing and Healing Category Scrapmoir Category Scrapmoir Category Scrapmoir Category Book Business Category Book Business Category Book Business Category Memoir Journal Writing Category Memoir Journal Writing Category Memoir Journal Writing Category News Category News Category News Category