Review of Juniper: The girl who was born too soon
by Kelley and Thomas French
Juniper French was born four months early, at 23 weeks' gestation. She weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces, and her twiggy body was the length of a Barbie doll. Her head was smaller than a tennis ball, her skin was nearly translucent, and through her chest you could see her flickering heart. Premature babies like Juniper, born at the edge of viability, trigger the question: Which is the greater act of love--to save her, or to let her go?
Kelley and Thomas French chose to fight for Juniper's life, and this is their incredible tale. In one exquisite memoir, the authors explore the border between what is possible and what is right. They marvel at the science that conceived and sustained their daughter and the love that made the difference. They probe the bond between a mother and a baby, between a husband and a wife. They trace the journey of their family from its fragile beginning to the miraculous survival of their now thriving daughter.
French grew up in Indiana and attended journalism school at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, where he was a Poynter scholar and editor-in-chief at the Indiana Daily Student, and where he won a Hearst award for a profile of a giant hog at the Indiana State Fair. An editor at the St. Petersburg Times read the hog story and hired French, just as he was graduating from IU, as a night cops reporter.
French spent the next 27 years at the Times, covering hurricanes and criminal trials and the secret lives of high school students. He experimented with narrative techniques both on deadline and nondeadline work and specialized in serial narratives, book-length stories published one chapter at a time.
In 1998, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and a Sigma Delta Chi award for Angels & Demons, a series that chronicled the murder of an Ohio woman and her two teenage daughters as they vacationed in Tampa. Two of his other serials, A Cry in the Night and South of Heaven, were later published as books. His most recent project, Zoo Story, explored the inner world of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and is scheduled to be published in book form by Hyperion in July 2010.
French is a Writing Fellow at the Poynter Institute and has taught there for more than 20 years. He also teaches in a nonfiction masters program at Goucher College, outside Baltimore, and has led narrative workshops across the U.S. and around the world, from the Nieman conference at Harvard to newsrooms in Dubai, Singapore and Johannesburg. He is married to Kelley Benham, a national award-winning reporter and editor at the St. Petersburg Times, and has two sons.
He is proud to have returned to his alma mater and is currently teaching narrative journalism and story mechanics.