It’s a dream you only read about in books: moving to NYC, acting with legendary directors, falling in love. As humans, we are drawn to stories of self-discovery, Bohemian artists, enduring romance, and the lives we cannot go back to relive.
Jojo Watts’ novel "Imagine That" is a beautiful voyeurism of early adulthood and the epitome of this dream life. The love story follows a young actress in New York exploring the city and finding a love that transcends background and race.
But it’s more than fiction. It’s Watts retelling of her life before moving to Boulder, picking up a pen, and raising three interracial children.
Watts left Florida at 18 and moved to NYC where she attended prestigious art academies. She was cast in blockbuster films by Spike Lee and went back to school to receive her B.A. while dating her now-husband.
This dream life has since become only a part of Watts’ identity. After the story was over, Watts began a metamorphosis from city artist to suburban mom, making the choice to raise her children full-time and teach them to navigate the world as Black men and women. She calls her 20+ years of motherhood, “the best job I’ve ever had.”
As Watts’ youngest prepares to leave for college, she finds herself retelling this odyssey in her second book "The Anchor," the story of a mother grounded in her strength and values, raising three biracial kids while navigating chaos.
“For my first book, I wanted my kids to know what it was like meeting and falling in love with their dad while being from different backgrounds,” Watts says. “My second book is about them and how I became that anchor. Being a mom and raising kids biracially, the rules of life are different.” Her retelling gives authentic glimpses into the ways interracial children learn about and experience the world.
Take for instance the obligatory “talk” parents have with their children around the age of 16. “It usually means sex,” Watts says, “but for Black families, it’s how to be pulled over by a police officer and make it home.”
Watts had this and countless other talks with her children to become “a voice in their heads,” hoping her guidance would keep them calm and safe outside the bubble of their home and community.
Her motivation for writing "The Anchor" is sharing the experience of raising biracial kids, but more so to rewrite her narrative and rediscover herself.
“My identity has been my kids for so long, but I’m also more than that. I wanted my kids to see that Mom had a life before us; she is a person. To know both parts of me,” Watts says. “I want my kids to go out in the world as more confident and grounded people in their identity. That way they too can reach their endless possibilities.”
This is the real dream: to feel seen as an individual while giving loved ones all they need to be self-empowered people courageously pursuing their ambitions. It’s a dream we can read about in books but also go out and live.