As a foreign correspondent for NPR, Jacki Lyden has spent her adult life on the frontlines in some of the most dangerous war zones in the world. Her childhood was a war zone of a different kind. Her mother suffered from what we now call manic depression; when Jacki was a child in a small Wisconsin town, her mother was simply called crazy.
In her delusions, she was a woman with power: Marie Antoinette or the Queen of Sheba. In her real life, she had married the nefarious local doctor, who drugged her to check her moods and terrorized the children to keep them quiet. Holding their lives together was Jacki's hardscrabble Irish grandmother, a woman who had her first child at the age of fourteen and lost her husband in a barroom brawl.
In "Daughter of the Queen of Sheba" Lyden vividly captures the seductive energy of her mother's delusions, which were both an inspiration and a threat as she set out on her own impassioned journey. In her twenties she joined a traveling rodeo. Later, as a radio journalist, she interviewed Arafat and maneuvered her way through Baghdad at the height of the Persian Gulf War. Always, her mother's exotic fantasies were an irresistible lure.