Father's gerbil obsession gives writer a voice

Wed Jun 10, 2009 2:46am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Some children grow up living with their father's obsession for golf or fishing. For Holly Robinson, it was gerbils.

As a child, Robinson accepted her father Donald Robinson's job as a gerbil breeder as normal, but it was only as his health began to decline in his later years that she started to question how this former navy commander became caught up with the rodents.

His obsession began in 1965 when he read about "America's newest pet" and bought a few pairs, but his interest grew and the family eventually settled on a 90 acre farm with nearly 9,000 gerbils which were sold for medical research and to pet shops.

Robinson spent three years working on her memoir, "The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter," that has just been released. Her father died in January, aged 80, ahead of the book's release.

The Massachusetts-based writer spoke to Reuters about her childhood and making the shift from magazine writer and ghost writer of health and science books:

Q: Was it hard to move from ghost writer to your own book?

A: "Not really. We can keep learning and get better and sharper at writing until our death beds. You learn from every piece that you write. I see my career as more of a staircase that has all been leading up to writing books."

Q: Why this book first?   Continued...