Graci Harkema, international speaker and owner of DEI consulting firm Graci LLC, published Rising; From a Mud Hut to the Boardroom- and Back Again in 2022. The intimate memoir tells a moving, personal journey of self-discovery. Here, she reflects on her book with Grand Rapids Magazine.
GR Mag: There’s been such a positive response to Rising. Did you expect that?
GH: I was so nervous leading up to the launch. I had no idea, especially what Grand Rapids folks would think about it. There’s so much in the book that’s centered around Grand Rapids’ culture. And it’s so personal. I was really terrified of just not knowing how it was going (to go).
GR Mag: What was that moment that you knew your story needed to be shared?
GH: Discovering my biological mother was still alive! On that trip (to meet my mother), I wrote down how I felt. And I read the segment to my mom and dad and their response (was) something along the lines of, “Wow, other parents should hear this,” because they resonated so strongly with it. That moment I realized, “Okay, what I just wrote is going to be a book.”
GR Mag: How long did you work on this project before we got Rising?
GH: I worked on my book for seven years. The writing process, it’s so funny. People tell me literally every day “I want to write a book.” I never aspired to write a book. But when I had that very powerful changing experience in 2015 (of meeting my mother), I had to.
Starting in April 2020, I (wrote) 40 to 50 hours a week. I was writing every single day, sometimes until the sun came up.
The first response from a major publisher was, “This is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever read, but you didn’t have enough Instagram followers, so we can’t guarantee sales.” And they passed.
Thankfully, my coach believed in my story.
I got a deal from Page Two out of Vancouver and had a great immediate connection with them. I loved that they believed in the story, and they saw the potential that this book could have.
GR Mag: How does it feel to be a professional in the workplace and also so open and vulnerable?
GH: I think there’s this perception, especially as a millennial, Black female in business, as an executive in business, that you have to be so fierce and confident. So, it was really terrifying. (But) I think that we are the most powerful when we are the most real and we are the most authentic. And we can’t show up as being real and authentic if we’re not vulnerable.