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photo by Mariel Kolmschot

Pia de Jong is a prize-winning literary novelist and newspaper columnist who moved to the U.S. from Amsterdam in 2012. Her memoir, Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition, is her first book in English.

Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition

Best-selling author Pia de Jong’s vivid memoir about her newborn daughter’s battle with leukemia and the startling decision that led to her recovery.

Video: Pia de Jong talks about the amazing story behind “Saving Charlotte”

When her newborn daughter Charlotte is diagnosed with a rare and deadly leukemia, Pia and her husband Robbert make a momentous decision: they reject potentially devastating chemotherapy and instead choose to “wait for what will come.” As the following year unfolds, Pia enters a disorienting world of doctors, medical procedures, and a colorful cast of neighbors and protectors in her native Amsterdam. Her seventeenth-century canal house becomes her inner sanctum, a private “cocoon” where she sweeps away distractions in order to give Charlotte the unfiltered love and strength she needs. Pia’s instinctive decision, now known as “watchful waiting,” has become another viable medical option in many cases like Charlotte’s.

This deeply felt memoir reveals the galvanizing impact one child can have on a family, a neighborhood, and a worldwide medical community. Vivid and immersive, Saving Charlotte is also a portrait of one woman’s brave voyage of love, of hope, and, in its inspiring climax, of self-discovery.

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Latest Articles, Columns, Short Stories

Microaggressions Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

There is a fast-growing inequality in American life — in political correctness and its consequences. You can see the fault lines most clearly between generations. The baby boomers and older people are acting and talking the free-wheeling, damn- the-torpedoes way they always did. Politicians routinely resort to offensive language, the president ridicules the appearance of women, and the government itself tries to reverse LGBT emancipation. Younger people like millennials, on the other hand, are becoming more and more Dnely sensitive to offensive statements, and never mind how small or unintended. This subject is central to the curriculum taught to students on every high school and college campus.

Last week I greeted one of my daughter’s Latina friends from across the street. “Hi, Louisa,” I called. My daughter turned to me in shock. It was not Louisa, but Mariana, another Latina girl. “Mom,” she protested. “That is one of your typical micro- aggressions. You give the impression that you think all Latinas are the same.”

I did not deliberately intend to insult the girlfriend by confusing her with someone else of the same ethnicity, but of course it was too late. I did not get away with saying that their hairstyles were very similar. No, I was unintentionally a racist.

It was time for my daughter to give me a crash course from her school curriculum about “micro-aggressions.”

The Weather Girl

The Princeton Echo, Noeember 2018

Hurricane Florence Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

The Weather Girl

The Princeton Echo, Noeember 2018

I used to have a little weather house that looked like an Alpine chalet. When the sun shined, the cheerful girl in a dress came out her door. But when rain was forecast, she vanished indoors and the little man appeared with his umbrella. That meant closing our windows and getting out our rain ponchos.

The modern weather house is the television. When bad weather is ahead, such as recently with Hurricanes Florence and Michael, the meteorologists appear on the screen, decked out in rain suits, waders, sou’westers, and of course gripping a huge microphone while they shout into the teeth of the wind.

Golden Apples Of The Sun Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Summer can be like the guest at your party who was welcome when he arrived but does not take your hint about when to leave. Even as the days grow shorter and my shadow falls longer on the garden path, the heat of August lingers well beyond its welcome.

Until one recent morning when for the first time I noticed a diaphanous mist hanging over the grass. It was a gauzy curtain that turned my favorite trees into insubstantial shadows. The gate to the garden seemed to float mysteriously in the air. When the fog cleared later that morning, I saw what I had not noticed until now. The leaves were proudly glowing with autumn colors. Deep red, ocher yellow, burnt purple. A loamy aroma rose from the earth. Some trees were already bare ruined choirs, their branches grasping the sky.

Hollow Tree Library Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Marquand Park is a beautiful 19th-century jewel that’s around the corner from me. When I walk into the park with my dog, I am always greeted by a cheerful buzz of activity. Small children bake pies in the sandbox, bigger kids twirl in feverish circles on their tricycles. When it starts to drizzle, everyone quickly gathers their things and vanishes. As the park falls empty and silent, I tug up the collar of my raincoat and walk my dog through the greensward on Magnolia Hill.

Raising a Foodie

US 1 Newspaper, August 8, 2018

Foodies Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Raising a Foodie

US 1 Newspaper, August 8, 2018

The first time our elder son seemed to understand food was at a McDonald’s. During a vacation, we had picked up a hamburger for him. He approached it with caution. First, he began to carefully dismantle it. He removed the pieces of onion, the ketchup, and the slice of pickle, then the wilted lettuce and the meat. The result was a soggy piece of bread with a slice of tomato that must have turned red from embarrassment. Thus was born the delicious “tomato sandwich,” still a fixture on our family menus.

Third Semester Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

In American colleges, the academic year has a secret third half. You know about the first two — the fall semester, then the spring semester, both crowded with books and lectures. But then, here comes a surprise: the third half of the school year, the one that arrives on tip-toe in early May and for the next four months suddenly leaves students as abandoned as if on a darkling plain.

The reason is that colleges want to use dorm rooms for their summer programs. So undergraduates are expelled from campus and become academic refugees. They gather everything they can carry and fly all over the world to their original breeding grounds, where they will wait like migratory birds to fly back to their college rooms in September.