Eden Unger Bowditch Raises a Family and Writes
a Book in the Midst of Revolution
“Raising a family is always a challenge,” says Eden Unger Bowditch. But the challenges Bowditch has faced this year are shared by very few mothers in the western world.
That’s because Bowditch lives with her husband and three children in Cairo, Egypt, where, beginning January 25, 2011, protesters took to the streets demanding the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Clashes between pro-government and anti-government forces made this a particularly dangerous time in the city of Cairo, and the timing could hardly have been worse for Bowditch.
“Lyric, my seventh grader, and twelve other middle school students from her school were set to fly to Abu Dhabi to participate in the Global Issues Network conference,” says Bowditch. “They flew out on the morning of Thursday, January 27. By the next day, the government cut off all mobile phones and internet.”
In short, Bowditch had no way to reach her daughter, and her daughter had no way of knowing the rest of her family was okay.
Simultaneously, Bowditch’s United States publisher, Bancroft Press, had a similar problem. Her wonderful children’s novel, The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black—the first book of her Young Inventors Guild trilogy, a story inspired by her own kids—was about to go to print, and suddenly, its author could not be reached.
“It was a surreal time,” says Harrison Demchick, the novel’s editor. “Nothing compared to actually being in Cairo, I’m sure. But Eden couldn’t call us. She couldn’t write us. All we could do was hope she and her family were okay and work to finish The Atomic Weight of Secrets.”
Back in Cairo, Bowditch managed to reach her daughter through landlines, having friends in Europe contact Lyric, but the situation itself had not improved. “Our car was stolen by what everyone believes to be government-sanctioned thugs,” says Bowditch. “There were homemade militias, wearing plastic armbands made of grocery bags. People with sticks and bats and pipes stopped cars to be sure no one was entering areas with bombs or weapons.”
When Lyric finally did make it home, it was in an armed vehicle sent to the airport to retrieve the children. She made it back to the school fifteen minutes past curfew. “We ran home from the school, gunfire shattering the quiet afternoon,” says Bowditch. “Lyric was stunned.”
Finally, as her young son Cyrus suffered through nightmares and feared the coming of “The Curfew,” believing it to be “something like the Boogeyman,” a mandatory evacuation was ordered for all embassy personnel. Bowditch’s husband, Nate, teaches at the American University in Cairo, so the Bowditch family qualified, evacuating to Germany, and then to Rome.
“In the midst of everything, film companies were contacting my publisher about the book, final edits had to be approved, and we were still hearing echoes of gunfire in our ears,” says Bowditch.
In addition, Eden had to write full plot summaries of the next two books in the Young Inventors Guild series on account of all the Hollywood interest. This would have been a daunting task to begin with, but after escaping a revolution and staying in Rome, still with limited internet and communication, it was outright Herculean.
And then, to make matters worse, Cyrus fell from a wall in Rome, breaking his legs. Fortunately, he was otherwise all right, and when the revolution died down, the exhausted Bowditch family was able to return to their Cairo home.
That home is far calmer now, but it’s also a country without a civilian government. In fact, the breakdown of government left the postal service in disrepair. Bowditch didn’t receive a copy of The Atomic Weight of Secrets until two months after it had been printed.
“What comes next is just not clear,” says Bowditch.
Her novel, The Atomic Weight of Secrets, was published in March to glowing reviews. But the bizarre experience of finishing a novel and protecting a family in the midst of a major revolution will not soon be forgotten.
THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF SECRETS OR THE ARRIVAL OF THE MYSTERIOUS MEN IN BLACK
The Young Inventors Guild, Book One
by Eden Unger Bowditch
Published by Bancroft Press
Publication Date: March 15, 2011
978-1-610880-02-2 $19.95 hardcover
978-1-610880-20-6 $9.99 eBook