Retired judge Marylin E. Atkins has penned her autobiography, The Triumph of Rosemary: a Memoir. Inspired by her daughters and some of her friends who knew about her life story, Atkins set out to recount her life from birth to the present. “Memories came flooding back, not only in chronological order, but in vivid details,” Atkins described. Atkins recalls the process for writing her book very clearly: “I would awaken at about 4:00 a.m. just about every morning with the next phase of my life clearly in my head. I sat down at my desk and just let the words flow for 12 hours per day. I finished writing about my 71 years of life in four months.”
Atkins earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from Saginaw Valley State University and a juris doctor from the University of Detroit School Of Law. The former lawyer and judge describes her writing style as “legal and very structured” and “really freestyle.” Now retired, Atkins resides in Detroit and enjoys exercising, playing the piano, doing carpentry, relaxing with friends, and baking banana-nut-raisin bread that she delivers to her friends, family, and others.
Rolling out spoke with Atkins about her new memoir. Check out what she had to say below.
What was the hardest part of completing this project?
The hardest part of completing this project was recounting and reducing to words some very painful experiences that I suffered at the hands of my mother and the death of my husband.
Describe the process in getting published.
My daughters, Elizabeth Ann Atkins and Catherine Marie Greenspan, have formed their own company, Two Sisters Writing and Publishing, and I left the editing and publishing up to them.
What were the literary, psychological and/or logistical challenges in bringing your work to life?
There were no literary challenges but there were psychological challenges in the fact of knowing that I would be sharing very personal life experiences with the public. I asked myself if I really wanted people to know these very personal things about me. At my daughters’ insistence, I answered yes.
What is the mission you set out to accomplish with your voice in this book?
The mission I set out to accomplish is summed up in the closing words of my book where I quote Maya Angelou: ”You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” I experienced many emotionally painful events in my life but I vowed to use them not to break me but make me stronger.
Being a former judge, give us your perspective on how this political environment has changed from the 1960s to now.
The political environment has drastically changed since the 1960’s. More women are in positions of leadership not just in politics but in all fields that were previously closed to women. There are many more women in congress, more women governors, mayors, heads of corporations and board of directors for major companies. Moreover, if they are not in the number one position, many are in chief advisory positions where they can impact the decisions made by the person in the number one position.
What is the new role of women today?
The new role of women today is not to let the fact that you are a woman deter you from reaching for whatever endeavor you believe you are qualified to achieve.
Name three reasons young Black women should consider law as a career.
Three reasons young black women should consider law as a career:
- [It’s] a great way to effect change in people’s lives and thus effect change in the community.
- Law provides a clearer perspective of what is right, just and necessary for human beings to coexist with one another. My favorite cases in law school were those I studied in Constitutional Law I,II and III. The bottom line of the cases was that everyone deserves, in our democratic society, a level playing field and any obstructions thereto must be removed.
- The emotional, psychological and hopefully financial benefits from practicing law are rewarding beyond measure. Even in the smallest case where a lawyer has gotten justice for the little guy, to have him/her smile and thank you after the victory is priceless. If a black woman is fortunate enough to serve as a judge, to me, the rewards quadruple. There is nothing more humbling than having the lives of people in your hands and having the power to make a decision based upon the law that will change their lives. It’s a lot of power to be used only for the good of the profession.
Why must the system be challenged in order for justice to be for everyone?
The system must be challenged in order for justice to be for everyone simply because a stagnate state of affairs leads to death and decay. It is only through constant questioning of what is right, fair and just, do we create a better world for everybody. Just as the human body must be challenged with exercise to keep it healthy and strong, so too our society must be challenged with new ideas introduced by all manner of citizens to keep it healthy and strong for all people to enjoy and prosper.