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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

Michael Graves Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

One day he appeared, standing pontifically on our stovetop.

The gleaming Alessi Whistling Kettle that belonged to my

roommate. She could not stop talking about it. We finally

would have modern design in our humble student dorm. And

affordable, too. Of course, it was a lot more expensive than

the HEMA Whistling Kettle we already had, but, she said,

well worth the money.

I could not share her enthusiasm. I thought it was odd, with

its cone-shaped shiny belly. And then that red bird that

whistled when the water came to a boil. It was funny the first

time, but would I have to endure this every time I heated up

water for tea?

Nothing Goes Unnoticed Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

A dozen people sit down at a huge conference table on the 25th

8oor of a skyscraper in Manhattan. In the middle of the table is a

long slit bristling with charging outlets. One at a time we plug into

the slot our smart phones, notebook computers, and iPads, and

settle in behind our devices.

On the screen of the woman sitting next to me an image of a red

beating heart suddenly lights up. She blushes and quickly deletes

it. Zip! The man across from me pulls his iPad out of its charger

and stands up to take a panoramic picture of the view of the

Freedom Tower under a sky Jlled with snow 8urries. Back at the

conference table he sends off the photo in an email. Zip!

My shoes get entangled in a jumble of cables under the table.

Where are they going? Where is that place where all our

messages, photos, fears, losses, and desires are sent forever?

Doris Duke Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Americans like to say that behind every great fortune is a
great crime. But that is hard for me to imagine as I walk
through the bucolic Duke Farms on this sunny autumn day.
My guide is my gardener, William. He grew up near this
2,000-acre estate in Somerset County and became fascinated
by its bountiful trees and plantings. And he was equally
fascinated by Doris Duke, the remarkable, star-crossed
woman who inherited this extraordinary place. She led a life
filled with money and all the misfortunes it can bring.
Doris was the only child of the exorbitantly wealthy tobacco
manufacturer James Buchanan Duke, the philanthropic
maker of Lucky Strikes and Camel for whom Duke University
is named. When he died in 1925, the bulk of his estate went to
the 12-year-old Doris, whom everyone then named “the
richest girl in the world.”

Pia de Jong: Teaching Math in America

US 1 Newspaper

Math In America Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Pia de Jong: Teaching Math in America

US 1 Newspaper

Is there anything more di0cult than being a public school teacher
in America? Yes, being a math or science teacher in New York
City. If you are teaching in New York, you start with the problems
that all teachers struggle with: students with behavior problems,
demanding parents, apathetic parents, administrative burdens,
paltry resources, long hours, and skimpy wages. Many teachers
take two jobs just to get by. Then in New York, you can throw into
this combustible stew the social issues around inequality,
violence, and racism. Add to that the particular obstacles math
and science pose for many students.
There are nearly two thousand public schools in NYC with more
than a million children. Many teachers have so little money for
their supplies that they dig into their own pockets to buy pencils
and paper for their pupils. Little wonder that some give up and
are lured to Wall Street, where the salaries are many times higher.
What’s the solution? Begin by throwing a party.

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.