DEFYING RELIGION, RACISM AND SMASHING GLASS CEILINGS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
One woman’s trailblazing journey through abuse, prejudice, and overcoming it all.
DETROIT, MI – An African-American/Italian biracial 20-year-old marries a 45-year-old former Roman Catholic priest in mid ‘60s Saginaw, Michigan, triggering a religious and racial scandal in the community. Ignoring the contempt and adversity she faced for the decision to be with the one she loved, that 20-year old would one day become the longest-serving Chief Judge in the history of Detroit’s 36th District Court.
Given the name “Rosemary,” at birth, Judge Marylin E. Atkins was born to an unwed Italian teen and a married black man in Detroit in 1946. After being put in foster care by her birth mother, a black couple from Saginaw adopts her. Her adoptive mother’s abuse shapes Atkins into a tough survivor who decides that she would forge her own fate, unwilling to allow this abusive woman to smother her ambition.
Publishing on Oct. 9, 2018, The Triumph of Rosemary is a raw, awe-inspiring tale of one woman’s unrelenting spirit in the face seemingly insurmountable adversity, the love of a family, and achieving the American Dream.
Judge Marylin E. Atkins was appointed six times by the Michigan Supreme Court to run Detroit’s 36th District court. After serving on the court for 21 years, she retired in 2012. Judge 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. Atkins 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. She lives in Detroit. She is the author of The Triumph of Rosemary: A Memoir, published by her daughters’ company, Two Sisters Writing and Publishing.
About the Book
“The Triumph Of Rosemary: A Memoir”
Marylin E. Atkins | October 9, 2018 | Two Sisters Publishing
Hardcover | $27.99
Paperback | $19.99
In an interview, Marylin can discuss:
* Interracial marriage and its stigmas
* How her children were raised to confidently identify as biracial
* Marrying a former Roman Catholic priest, who was forbidden by the Church to marry
* Her search for her birth parents
* How she cultivated a tough mindset surviving the emotional and physical abuse of her adoptive mother
* Her career path to becoming a district’s Chief Judge
An Interview with Judge Marylin E. Atkins
It takes a lot of courage to put your personal story out there for the whole world to read. Why did you decide to write this memoir?
For about 15 years, my daughters had been urging me to write my story. I always resisted because I did not believe I had a story worth sharing. The things I did during my life, I thought everybody did, that is, make a plan to take care of yourself and your family and see that plan through to the very best of your ability. I also resisted because I was not sure that I wanted to share such personal events in my life with the world. Finally, I relented and began writing in December 2016, just before Christmas. As I wrote, I realized and appreciated that I do have a story that is unique and worth sharing with the world.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
My hope is that by sharing my experiences, good and bad, I can encourage others to first, make a life plan that is realistic given one’s circumstances, assess and review the plan as time goes on, amend the plan if necessary and never give up, no matter what obstacles are thrown in your path. Resolve within yourself that you know what is best for you and how to reach your goals.
What challenges did you face when you first got married to your husband, Thomas Lee Atkins?
The challenges that I faced when I married my husband in 1966: My husband was white, he was a former Roman Catholic priest (15 years) and he was 25 years my senior. When we married, I was a 20 year old biracial (African American and Italian) girl and he was 45 years old. In the 1960’s interracial marriage was not popular, nor was it popular for priests to leave the priesthood. And everyone was skeptical that a May-December union would work, especially with all these other factors. The Bishop of the Saginaw Diocese ordered us to leave Saginaw, my husband’s family did not speak to him, and my mother was furious. My father, however, was not because my husband was a gentle man and he knew he would take care of me. Except for the demands of the Bishop and the alienation of his family, we did not endure outright racism, at least to our faces. We always knew there were whispers behind our backs and people always stared at us as if trying to figure out how we “fit together,” especially after we had our daughters, who looked totally white. While interracial marriage in Ohio where we married was not illegal, we were aware of the laws forbidding such unions in the south. We rejoiced when the United States Supreme Court in 1967, ruled that states could not outlaw interracial marriages in the Loving vs. Virginia case. All of the negatives we were faced with made our love for each other all the more strong.
You found out that you were adopted before you hit your teenage years. How did that revelation affect you?
I found out that I was adopted when I was 10 years old. My adoptive mother told me the whole story after a little girl who had heard her parents talking about the fact that my brother and I were adopted, asked me what my “real” name was.
In explaining what happened, my mother used the word “special” over and over because I told her that the little girl said that adopted babies were babies that nobody wanted. I did not feel any different emotionally after the revelation and I distinctly remember thinking that this is why I did not look like a newborn baby in the first picture that my parents had of me. I was 6 months old!!!! Being adopted only bothered me when I suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of my adoptive mother. It was at these times I wondered why she adopted me.
Had you always known you wanted to be a judge?
I decided that I wanted to be a judge in the late 1980’s while I was a member of the State Bar of Michigan Judicial Qualifications Committee. It was the committee’s responsibility to interview all judicial candidates, rate their qualifications and forward them to the Governor of Michigan for consideration and selection. After several years on the committee and having a job where my responsibility was to decide cases, I decided that it would be a good position for me.
If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing while you were living with your abusive adoptive mother, what would it be?
If I could go back to the time that I was being abused by my adoptive mother, I would tell myself the same thing I told myself then: I have to “go along, to get along” until I can get away from her. She was in complete control of my life until I began seeing my husband to be. When I think back, I realize that her abuse made me the strong person that I am and it made me the good, loving mother that I have always been to our daughters. One thing I might have asked her if I could go back: “Do you love me?” I never heard those words from her.
What’s next for you?
What is next for me is to continue enjoying my retirement by traveling, spending time at our family cottage, watching my daughters grow their writing and publishing business, and watching my grandson grow to manhood. And I am thinking about visiting schools in Detroit as I did when I was on the bench. I enjoyed putting on my robe and talking with students about keeping their eye on the prize and becoming good, productive citizens. I would also like to have lots of speaking engagements/book signings to tell my story. I was the 2018 Commencement speaker at my alma mater, Saginaw Valley State University, because the President of the University read my book. He insisted that I include some of my life story in my remarks. My address was described as heartfelt and powerful.
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