New memoir helps singer-songwriter Veda Hille see her mother in a new light
Rosanna Hille thought the years she spent traveling the world and running a humanitarian organization would make a good book.
her new memoirs, Swimming in Stories: The River of My Lifetraces the path that took her through the West Coast counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s to her current life with Parkinson’s disease.
The textile designer and gifted author was born in South Africa and spent her early childhood in Denmark before settling in BC
Her daughter, singer-songwriter and storyteller Veda Hille, says the book helped her see her mother in a new light.
“We just look at our parents and see them as the person they relate to us,” she told CBC North for Northwest Host Margaret Gallagher. “So it’s a great gift to be able to see her as a whole person.”
The title of the book comes from one of the chapters called “Swimming the World” which lists all the places where Hille jumped in the water and swam.
Hille says her mother kept letters from her childhood, which helped the author unlock long-forgotten memories.
“I’m very grateful to her for holding my voice,” says Hille.
In the book, Hille writes about her first job as a waitress before she began her studies at the University of British Columbia.
“Last summer, before I went to college, I worked as a car hop at the Riverside drive-in restaurant just west of town on the Yellowhead Highway to Prince Rupert…I learned a lot about life and human nature,” she writes.
In a later section, she talks about the counterculture movement, the Vancouver scene around West 4th Avenue, the tensions between “hippies” and the city government, and how the city’s history has shaped its cultural landscape today.
“I think it was a very rich time for me,” says Hille.
The book also explores the family’s connection to spirituality through Subud, an interfaith movement that began in Indonesia in the 1920s.
Veda says it is based on the experience of opening yourself to the mercy of the higher power you believe in.
“It’s based on an experience rather than a book… It’s something that just comes into your life… But it’s not for everyone,” she says.
The book also highlights Hille’s travels exploring her privilege as a Western traveller.
“I was fortunate to witness social injustice firsthand and to learn to observe power dynamics, see the effects of the gap between rich and poor, and gradually understand them through different cultural lenses,” Hille writes in the book.
According to Hille, the book also looks at what it’s like to live with Parkinson’s disease.
A section of her book talks about the splendor of walking, one of many challenges people with Parkinson’s face.
“It was useful… [I have] gratitude and hope,” says Hille.
“That’s an incredible attitude, Mom,” says Veda. “I really admire that.”
Swimming in Stories: The River of My Life is available on Hille’s website.