When Janet Mason's mother was diagnosed with fourth-stage cancer, Mason did what any loving daughter would do -- she became her mother's caretaker.
But the months she spent caring for her terminally ill mother left her with more than she expected. It became a learning experience about her family, complete with stories about her mother's life as well as her grandmother's.
She began penning a book on the experience for four-to-five years after her mother died, but had trouble getting it published due to the economy. Finally, about 17 years later, Mason, of Mt. Airy, published her book in April 2012.
The book takes place in both Levittown -- where Mason grew up -- and Mt. Airy.
Although Mason said she believes many people experience what she wrote about in "Tea Leaves: a memoir of mothers and daughters," it's not a topic often explored.
"It’s telling a story that’s not told a lot," she said. "It's a story many people can relate to [because] they have, are or will go through it."
But the untold story, she said, spans further than the reversed role of caretakers.
Mason's book also contains a vast array of issues -- including but not limited to those in the LGBT community being expected to assume role of caregiver because of the perception of little-to-no family dynamic, a profit-driven health care system that didn't do all it could for her mother and labor history in Philadelphia for women -- like her grandmother who was also profiled.
But the learning experience didn't stop with circumstances leading up to her book, Mason added.
"I feel like I’ve become this cultural worker," she said. "I learned a lot from the perspectives of others."
Mason said readers -- gay or straight -- have been able to identify with her story. Among those, she said, was one of her students in her creative writing at the Mt. Airy Learning Tree, who said "the sexual orientation didn’t matter to her and she could plug her late husband into the supportive partner role."
Mason added that the writing community in Mt. Airy is a very unique niche.
"I think that a writer in Mt. Airy is a very specific experience," she said. "We share our emotional realities more than people in other parts of the city and we share our experiences. It’s just [as natural as] going to the co-op."
It's important, she said, to share her book with her community.
"I think it’s something that where they can read about one of their neighbors, they can read about their neighborhood and read about the care taking of a parent," she said. "Many Mt. Airy people have gone through or will go through [this]."
Mason will be hosting two book readings in Mt. Airy.
The first will be July 23 from 7-to-8:30 p.m. at the Lovett Memorial Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, 6945 Germantown Avenue.
The other will be July 27 at 7:15 p.m. at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Street.