I recently came across a book quite different than anything I’ve read before; an interesting as much an educating book.
‘Mercedes Sosa – The Voice of Hope: My life-transforming discovery of the mother of Latin America’ by Anette Christensen is a biography of the famous late Argentine singer, social activist in the first part followed by an essay on research into neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology in the second part.
I loved this book for many reasons. I love art. And I love artists. I’m always eager to know more about their career and their personal life. Not because I like gossiping but because I believe that our experiences define who we really are. I’m also a history enthusiast. And I’ve recently found an interest in neuroscience.
It’s a well written book, easy to read, perfectly paced from the first page to the very last. I loved the author’s writing style; narration flows naturally and effortlessly. The neuroscience is equally interesting to the Mercedes Sosa and all that make this book a great reading experience.
The book is richly illustrated with the author’s personal drawings of Mercedes Sosa, which she made as a part of her personal recovery process from emotional trauma during her time with Mercedes Sosa. Furthermore, the book contains multiple exquisite historical photos supporting the book’s descriptions of Mercedes Sosa and Argentine history more generally.
After I read ‘Mercedes Sosa – The Voice of Hope’ I had the pleasure to have a little chat with author Anette Christensen and here is what we talked about…
– Who exactly is Anette Christensen?
I was born and raised in Denmark but now live in Turkey with my Danish husband. I am the author of Mercedes Sosa – The Voice of Hope which is the first book ever written in English about the world famous Argentine singer, social activist and folk-heroine.”
– How did you decide to pursue a writing career?
“I always liked to write and to express myself, especially if I found myself in a challenging situation. Then I would try to write my way out of it to see things more clearly. I never planned a writing career as such. I know some authors research the market and write a book in a short time to fill out a void in the market. I only write if there is something I am passionate about and I will not get it published fast because when I write it is a part of a personal process and I want to be sure that I live what I write about as much as possible.”
– Where did you draw inspiration from?
“The inspiration came from my passion about Mercedes Sosa. My curiosity about her and the huge impact she made on me motivated me to know more. I decided only to share what I learned when I understood others could benefit from it too.”
– Do you have a specific writing routine?
“I haven’t got a place where I can sit in peace and quiet so I put on my earmuffs to cut out the sounds from the surrounding mosques and the construction work that is continuously going on here in Turkey. It signals to my husband that I am concentrating but I made a decision not to ignore the people I love. If my relationships suffer because of a project it is not worth it. My concentration is best in the morning but I leave a notebook next to my bed to write down the ideas and phrases that often pops up in the middle of the night.”
– What is next for you?
“I haven’t planned to write another book yet but I am very fascinated about people’s stories and will most probably stick with biographies and memoirs. I feel there is so much to learn from real life experiences, which offers the readers opportunity to either identify with someone or gain understanding of others different from themselves.”
– How do you describe yourself?
“I am a gold-digger and a go-getter. What I mean by this is that I look for the gold in people and do my best to encourage it. I love to see others shine and live to their full potential. I am quite sensitive to the wellbeing of others and only feel truly happy when the people that life has placed next to me thrive and flourish. By being a go-getter, I mean a person who reaches out for their dreams and takes delight in seeing other people’s dreams come true as well. I am extremely persistent and a challenge only gives fuel to my determination like with this book. I wrote it without much access to English speaking sources and I wrote it in a language that isn’t my mother tongue.”
– What is this book about?
“The book is about the Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa’s life and career and how my encounter with her my transformed my life.”
– What is the message you want to send with this book?
“That positive encounters with others are essential for our development, healing and wellbeing as human beings. That the life of one person can touch the lives of many others.”
– What is your readership?
“The book appeals to a broad group of interests and a wide-ranging age group as well. If the reader already knows Mercedes Sosa, they will get to know her even better. This is the first book about her in English and it gives insight into her personal life and offers a psychological profile which is not found in depth in English anywhere else.
People who never heard of Mercedes Sosa before will also benefit from getting to know her, since her story is incredibly inspirational.
Whether the reader knows Mercedes Sosa or not, it is an opportunity to dig into Latin American culture, music, history and politics. The continent has so much to offer but is often overlooked by the media in other countries, having a likewise effect on the people living in them. Consequently, countless individuals are unaware of this beautiful, dynamic and vibrant continent.
The psychological angle to the book will be a source of inspiration for everyone who takes interest in psychology and personal development. Readers who have known suffering in their own life will feel that they are not alone as they connect with Mercedes Sosa’s story, or my personal story, too.”
– How will this book impact the audience?
“It will inspire the readers to live consciously and reach out for authenticity; to nurture their inner selves and experience a greater wellbeing in their lives.
Reading about Mercedes can have the same effect on the reader as Mercedes has had on people all over the world for decades. It can evoke a desire for a positive change in the world and it is likely that Mercedes will inspire some readers to live out their full potential to make this world a better place. Maybe the reader will dive into Mercedes Sosa’s songs or Latin American music in general.”
– What will this book invoke to readers?
“Hope! Whether we face personal suffering from a painful past, financial struggles, or political oppression, it is possible to flourish in the midst of it all. Beautiful people doesn’t just happen, they are born through suffering and Mercedes is an extraordinary example of this. If Mercedes could bounce back from her afflictions as a more empathic, resilient and authentic person, so can each of us once we have learned to respond to life’s challenges in a constructive way.
The book can be used as a practical guide to self-help and self-understanding. Through the psychological profile I draw of Mercedes Sosa, and through my personal story of how my encounter with her transformed my life, I show the reader that it is possible to heal and recover by following their inner voice or inner wisdom.
The book is based on lives fully lived. It is not only the story of how Mercedes grew stronger through her exile, her divorce and her depression; it is also about how I was healed from childhood wounds by connecting with Mercedes as a mother figure; using music, imagination and mindful meditation in the process. I offer a practical and balanced approach to universal human and existential issues.”
– Why did you write this book?
“Mercedes Sosa touched my life from the very beginning. I wanted to connect with her and get to know her; so I started to do research about her as a part of my own personal healing process. I watched her and listened to her on the internet. In the beginning, I did it solely for my own recovery but then realized there wasn’t any material about her in English. From this, I felt a need to spread the word about her outside the Spanish speaking world. I felt I had found a treasure which I had to share with the rest of the world.
When it became clear that connecting with Mercedes was actually healing me, I started to reason by looking for scientific explanations of how that could be possible. What I found was simply too amazing to keep for myself, but the idea of including my story of how my encounter with Mercedes affected my life, only occurred to me three years after when I knew that I had discovered a road to personal wholeness that really worked and that there was scientific evidence backing my experience.
So to put it short, I wrote out of my passion for Mercedes Sosa and out of a desire to facilitate hope to others because the avenue of healing I found can easily be accessed by anyone—whether it happens by connecting with Mercedes or another significant person.”
– How did you get to know Mercedes Sosa as you describe her without ever meeting her?
“I got to know her almost in the same way as we get to know people in real life. I watched her and listened to her. I observed her actions and her way of life and paid attention to how she related to herself, to others and to society in general. I spent hours in her company daily for a couple of years. Mercedes was very expressive and you can read a lot from all the nuances in her expressions, gestures and intonation. It doesn’t matter whether she sings, speaks, or if she doesn’t say anything at all. She communicates from a place deep within herself. Our brain is geared to translate the signals it gets from others and is able to perceive or imagine the intentions of another person and discern whether a person is genuine or not; so I used a mindful and empathic approach to get an understanding of her personality and beliefs. In my research, I discovered that Mercedes had a huge impact on millions of her fans who perceived her in the same way as I did and talked about her as a “mystical presence”.”
– How long did it take you to write the book?
“It took seven years because it was born out of my personal recovery process. I have lived out what I write about and life has tested me in the process. It takes time to heal and I have learned new things about myself in the process of writing this book. Just like it takes time for cheese to mature, I took time to learn my lessons. Every time I was forced by outside circumstances to slow down the writing process, I got new insight, which made the manuscript even more convincing. Not writing in my mother tongue also extended the length of the editing process.”
– Tell me more about your personal journey in writing this book.
“Quite early in the process I had a strong desire to write about Mercedes and share my discovery with the rest of the world. I concluded that it wasn’t possible because I didn’t understand Spanish and that my energy was very low at the time. But after two years I started to write my experiences down in Danish for my benefit alone. One year after I had started to write, I moved to Turkey. There, one day, I ran into a wonderful lady who knew about Mercedes Sosa and shared my love and passion for her. This lady had been working in the book-industry in Turkey for years and got very excited about my project. At that time I had no idea if my writings were good or not but decided to translate what I had written into English so she could read it. It was her words that motivated and energized me to keep writing. One year later I contacted Mercedes Sosa’s family who approved of the book and found my psychological approach interesting. This was a huge encouragement too, of course.
Naturally, I needed an editor, but didn’t have the money to hire a good one. But a good friend turned up as an investor and so I decided to hire one of the most professional editors I could find. As a first time author, writing in a language that is not my native language, it was pretty scary to send my manuscript to an editor who had previously been an editor for Simon and Schuster, one of the biggest publishers in the United States. I took my beatings. I owed it to Mercedes Sosa, her family, my readers and to myself to do my very best to make the book stand out.
I spend months working through the comments and corrections and realized I needed a second round of editing. This time I chose another editor who was less expensive but who also fully understood and supported my intentions for writing this book.”
– You were low in every way when you first heard about Mercedes Sosa. What exactly was your situation like?
“The financial crisis had forced my husband and I to close our two companies, a travel agency and a real-estate agency. We were compelled to sell our house, and around the same time I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, leaving me unable to work and pay off our debts. As a result, I was feeling psychologically distressed, and didn’t have any hopes left for a better future. I also struggled to recover from childhood traumas that had left my mother and I estranged for a while. I felt like a zombie, disconnected from myself and life. Not a very nice situation to be in at all. But as Leonard Cohen sings in the song Anthem, “There is a crack in everything; that is how the light gets in.” Mercedes Sosa became that beam of light that shone through my cracks.”
– Can you explain how using a fictive relationship had such an impact on you?
“The fictive relationship that I developed with Mercedes Sosa can’t replace real-life relationships, but in the context of healing from the wounds of the past, a fictive relationship with Mercedes worked wonders because I saw her as a compassionate mother figure and the brain doesn’t differentiate between what is real and what is perceived. Our imagination can stimulate our brains and our bodies. Try to think about a lemon and it will create the same sensations and produce saliva as if we were eating a lemon. We tend to use our imagination to think about what can go wrong, like failing an exam for example. It can cause stomach ache and anxiety. The good news is that we can also use our imagination deliberately to picture something positive and take advantage of the fact that the brain can be triggered into believing that something is real. Imagining Mercedes Sosa as a compassionate mother created a positive response that soothed me and promoted my recovery, both physically and emotionally.”
– Are you still connecting with Mercedes Sosa as a mother figure?
“I am not using Mercedes Sosa in the same meditative way as I did the first 3-4 years. But when I listen to her songs and hear her voice there is an immediate recognition of everything she represents to me. A nurturing mother. I still become peaceful, comforted, energized and happy when I listen to her music. I know I can always connect and continue the process if I feel the need to do so again, but recently; all my focus has been on finishing the practical details of the book.”
– Has your healing process been completed?
“Yes, I feel free and whole in a way I never have before, but as it often is, the same theme runs through our lives and surfaces again and again as we are being pushed by circumstances in our lives. We gain a little more insight every time something triggers our old wounds to pop up. If anything aggravates my old wound in the future, I know what it is and how to take care of it.”
– What is the neuro-scientific research?
“Drawing on research into interpersonal neurobiology, I reveal my findings about how connecting with another person can result in personal transformation and growth, and how it can happen even in an imaginary relation as I had experienced with Mercedes Sosa. Neuroscience stresses that what we focus on will shape our brain which in turn changes our experience of the world and how we perceive our past. My research has come from reading articles and listening to speeches by Daniel Siegel, a pioneer in the field of interpersonal neurobiology. Interpersonal neurobiology is about how our minds affect one another when we connect with each other. At its core, interpersonal neurobiology believes that we are who we are because of our relationships and that all relationships change the brain, especially the most intimate ones. It is a generally held belief in neuroscience that the adult brain will continue to grow new brain cells throughout its entire life and remain open to changes in response to experience.
During my writing process, I was also in touch with Insight Focused Therapy in New Zealand who examined my research.”
– How did neuroscience affect your healing process?
“I have been interested in psychology for many years and have read many self-help books. The interesting thing about my healing process is that it happened spontaneously. I followed my intuition. It was like a path that was laid out before me. I listened to my inner voice and as I followed it, real change took place. It made me curious and I wanted to understand why it was so effective. The neuro-scientific findings didn’t affect my healing process as such; it only helped me to understand everything I experienced. The scientific research about how the brain works, how we can influence it and how it responds to connecting with others, pointed out to me that what I share with my readers is not just something I made up and which worked only for me. Science has proved that everyone can experience physical or emotional wellbeing or recovery in any positive connection with another person. I have only scratched the surface of what neuro-science has discovered, but in the book I share what I have learned about how we can influence our brain and change our present and our future by changing how we perceive our past. I hope the readers will find it useful and perhaps continue to absorb the subject afterwards, because the discoveries are revolutionary.”
– How do people respond to your story?
“Let me give you an example. In the summer of 2015 I was stuck with the manuscript because I didn’t have the money for an editor and was feeling somewhat low when on my way from Turkey to one of the Greek Islands, I met two wonderful American ladies in a ferry office. They asked about my life and I said I was writing a book about Mercedes Sosa. One of the ladies got so excited that she jumped and hugged me for a long time, before saying, “Are you really writing a book about Mercedes Sosa? She is out of this world. I love her, she is the best. I hardly know anything about her personal life. I really want to read your book.” The other lady hadn’t heard about Mercedes before so I started telling her about Mercedes’s life and the influence she’d had on me. As I talked, tears began to run down her face. Then she said, “What an amazing story. I want to get to know her too. Your personal story is touching me deeply. This is something others can benefit from hearing too. I am the director of member experiences in a social club for very influential people in New York. I want them to hear this. Maybe you can come and speak when the book gets out?”
– What do you hope the book will achieve?
“If the book will change the life of just one person, I will be very happy. Maybe that person will help change someone else’s life who will one day impact the world for the better. If this occurred, I would never know that I was a part of it. But, that is not important to me—I just hope the book will contribute to healing the world, one person at a time. We can’t expect peace in the world if we are not at peace within ourselves. Like in an aircraft when we are told to put on our own oxygen masks before helping others—if the oxygen is low—so we all need to heal ourselves before we can reach out with love and compassion to others. When we have been loved and feel welcome in this world, it is not difficult to respect others, and we are not fearful of others either. Then we can think of the common good and not just about our own needs. As Mercedes said, solutions don’t come from politicians; it has to come from all of us. If my book brings hope and healing to individuals whether I know about it or not, I will be happy.”
– You use the term “existential wound”. Can you explain what you mean by this?
“I believe a person is born with innate goodness, but none of us are perfect, and to become a whole person we need to be loved unconditionally. But, such love is hard to find because only a person who has been loved unconditionally can love someone in this way. It is our human nature to show our good sides and hide what we don’t like about ourselves. So even if someone loves us unconditionally, we will be unable to receive it and accept it because we know they are not seeing what we are hiding from them. In this case, we receive only the love we think we deserve and it leaves us with an existential wound.
An existential wound can be passed from one generation to another. Parents who have not been loved for who they are, by their caretakers, will find difficulty in loving their children unconditionally.”
– What is the message you want to share via this book?
“Be authentic. That means to be true to ourselves and live our lives according to our core values and essence and not according to what we think others expect of us. Basically, if we are not authentic, we don’t live our own lives but hand it over to the likes and dislikes of others. Furthermore, if we are not authentic, we can’t make genuine connections with other people, which means we live our lives separated from the love, healing and mirroring that we need to heal and become more authentic. My message is: Look out for authenticity and when you find it, reach out and connect!!”
– If you could talk to Mercedes Sosa today, what would you ask her?
“I would ask her how she feels about my book and what she believes is the secret behind the impact she had and still has on people.”
– What are the most important lessons you have learned from Mercedes Sosa?
“The importance of being present with people and letting them know you see them and accept them as they are. To love others as unconditionally as you possibly can and to always look for the good in others while respecting our differences.”
What is your Mercedes Sosa favorite song?
“It is a hard question. I have hours of track-lists with my favorite songs. Should I mention two, they’d be Todo Cambia and Como la Cigarra. Todo Cambia is a reminder that we must not resist involuntary changes in our lives. Everything changes all the time and we never know if a certain change will be good or bad. When something bad happens it can lead to something good, which was what Mercedes experienced throughout her life. As Mercedes said about her time in exile, it matured her as an artist, opened new horizons and expanded her career. Como la Cigarra talks about being a survivor. Life can be hard on us, but every time we fall, we will rise again.”
– How do you think the book will influence your life after it’s published?
“I am affected by chronic fatigue so I need to live a peaceful life without the stress that comes with too much attention. I prefer to stay underneath the radar and not change my way of living. But, I put seven years of time and energy into the book and invested quite a bit of money too, so naturally I hope it will be received well. I hope I can visit Argentina one day and meet some of Sosa’s relatives. I would also really like to attend the festival in Cosquin. It is the biggest folk-music festival in Latin America and spans over nine days at the end of January. It was at this festival Mercedes had her national breakthrough in 1965. I have become very fond of some of the Latin American singers I discovered through Mercedes Sosa. I have added artists like Soledad Pastorutti, León Gieco, Víctor Heredia, Patricia Sosa, Jorge Drexler, Pablo Milanés, and Silvio Rodriguez to my list of favorite Latin American singers.”
– Are you planning to get the book translated into other languages?
“Yes, it is being translated into Turkish already but I also plan to get it translated into Spanish, Portuguese and German in the near future. Other languages might follow later.”
– You moved to Turkey while writing the book. Did that event influence your writing in any way?
“If I hadn’t moved to Turkey I might not have finished the book. It was my Turkish friend who encouraged me to get it published.”
Mercedes Sosa – The Voice of Hope: My life-transforming discovery of the mother of Latin America
Anette Christensen, born and raised in Denmark, began her career by helping develop international charity programs. Later she became a language teacher for college students, and then, with her husband, ran a travel agency and a real estate agency. Now semi-retired and living in Turkey, she writes and focuses on personal growth.
For years Anette traveled in many parts of the world. Her experiences with various cultures have enabled her to engage with people with a different outlook on life than her own. She is eager to learn from others and finds joy in embracing the difference of others, spotting the uniqueness that she believes is within each individual.
It was only upon Mercedes Sosa’s death that Anette Christensen discovered this influential and important Argentine singer. Captivated by Sosa’s voice and presence, the author immersed herself in Sosa’s music and life. In doing so, Anette discovered an avenue to personal transformation and well-being that can easily be accessed by anyone. In her book on Sosa, Anette shares the singer’s story while exploring the scientific underpinnings of how connecting with another person leads to growth, something Anette discovered intuitively.
Being Danish writing in English when most sources are only available in Spanish bear witness to Anette’s “Viking mentality.” She never steps back for a challenge.
Mercedes Sosa – The Voice of Hope is the first book by Christensen and has been in the making for almost seven years. It is a product of a life fully lived and shows that Anette is a gifted storyteller.
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH ANETTE CHRISTENSEN