Hedgebrook LogoHedgebrook Logo
  • 3

by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Eleven years ago, Brenda Heist’s marriage fell apart. She was trying to find housing and had been refused financial aid; she was depressed, in despair, crying on a park bench. And then she vanished. What a heartbreaking, terrifying time for her family, who suspected the worst, even declared her legally dead. When she reappeared to great media fanfare last week in Florida, reaction ranged from confusion to scorn.

Eleven years ago, my marriage also ended and I moved down the street, leaving the physical custody of my two sons with my husband.

The public outrage directed at Heist has been eerily similar to the hostility and anger I encountered when I wrote a memoir about it.

The complete post can be found here. Our sincere apologies for cross posting the full content of this piece under the mistaken impression we had permission to do so. And watch Reiko’s complete interview tomorrow night!


Rahna Reiko Rizzuto is the author of the memoir Hiroshima in the Morning: a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle and Asian American Literary Award, a Dayton Literary Peace Prize Nominee and the winner of the Grub Street National Book Award.  Her first novel, Why She Left Us, won an American Book Award in 2000, received a Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award Honorable Mention.  She is also a recipient of the U.S./Japan Creative Artist Fellowship, funded by the NEA.  Rizzuto has been a guest on The Today Show, The View, The Joy Behar Show, MSNBC-TV and PBS-TV, Oprah Radio, CBC Radio and NPR. She writes for Salon.com and is a featured Huffington Post blogger, and her essays and stories have appeared in the L.A. Times, the Crab Creek ReviewNew York Family Magazine, The Progressive, Newsday, The San Jose Mercury News, The St. Petersburg Times, The Providence Journal, as well as numerous anthologies. Reiko is half-Japanese/half-Caucasian. She grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii and lives in Brooklyn.  She is currently on the faculty of the MFA program for creative writing at Goddard College and serves on Hedgebrook’s national Alumnae Leadership Council. www.rahnareikorizzuto.com


Study with Reiko at her November Master Class! Find out more here.


Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.


Rahna Reiko Rizzuto
About Rahna Reiko Rizzuto


  • liz gonzalez
    9:26 PM - 13 June, 2013

    My mother was a child of the 50’s, Catholic, and an only daughter. She did not want to have children, but she followed the rules of her religion and society. Widowed at 23 with two daughters, she was pressured to find a good Catholic man to be a father to her daughters. A “good” Catholic woman, she remarried, didn’t take birth control and had two more daughters. My step-father left her for another woman, left the state to one where he wouldn’t have to pay child support. My mother was a mess. She provided for us; we never went without food, a home, clothes, but we were emotionally neglected.

    When The Hours came out, women were appalled by the 50’s young mother character who left her family. But I understood. If my mother wouldn’t have faced so much negativity, the best thing she could have done for us would have been to leave us in her parents’ custody until she got it together. But she did what she was “supposed to do.”

    A mother who puts her children in the custody of the parent or caretaker who is best for the children IS a “good” parent. Just because society says the mother must have custody doesn’t mean it’s best. Bravo to Reiko!

  • Leah Lax
    9:54 PM - 13 June, 2013

    I lived in a fundamentalist community and my husband was a distant uninvolved father. Two of our seven children were still at home when I determined to leave. I never imagined to leave without my boys–I had been essentially both parents to them, and my life had been largely defined by motherhood. But I’m a lesbian and I was in a relationship, and this was Houston during the Bush administration, and a lawyer told me that no judge in Texas would give me custody. Then the boys themselves objected. They were embarrassed, and also unwilling to leave their home when everything else in their lives was changing too fast.

    And yet, in the end their sense of abandonment was profound.

  • reiko
    2:42 PM - 16 June, 2013

    Thank you, Leah and Liz, for sharing. There are so many different versions of this story! Did you see the segment on 20/20 that aired on Friday?

    Here is the link: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/moms-moving-19408453.

    The questions are still based on the same judgement and assumptions that a mother should sacrifice everything for her children, but the answers are different now.

    And Leah, take heart in the fact that things change. People change. If you keep an open heart, your boys may well find their way back. When Brenda Heist’s daughter became famous for saying she hopes her mother rots in hell, I thought, wow, someday she will want to roll that back and it will be that much harder to do so.

    Peace to both of you and thanks for reading.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.