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A Bona Fide Medium

Rochelle Jewell Shapiro is a psychic, novelist, essayist and poet. In her latest novel, Kaylee’s Ghost, she continues the saga of Miriam, a character she introduced in her first book, Miriam the Medium. Shapiro tells Yona Zeldis McDonough about how she first became aware of her unusual gifts, the distinctions between psychics and mediums, and Joseph, arguably the greatest Jewish psychic of all time.

So you’re a bone fide medium! Say more about your work.
A medium focuses on seeing the spirits of the dead. I’m more of a “nuts and bolts” psychic. I see a client’s relationships, finances, work life, health concerns, etc. But of course, the spirits are always around. As a psychic, I see in symbols. I get mental images such as the scales of justice signifying either that the client is a lawyer or in the midst of a lawsuit. I see pink flowers for a birthday, red for an anniversary, a couple of Silly Putty eggs for breast implants, etc. It’s like walking around with a unique tarot deck in my head. Each reading is as individual as a thumbprint, as unique as the client himself, which keeps me thrilled with my work.

When did you first discover you had psychic gifts?
There was not one specific moment when I first discovered that I had a gift. As a child, I didn’t know that people couldn’t see people’s auras or get glimpses of what they were doing when they weren’t physically around them. I didn’t know that I was seeing spirits when I saw the transparent forms, the people-shaped shadows. I didn’t know that words that slingshot from my mouth could be other people’s darkest secrets. I had to learn the hard way—A frassk in the pisk, a slap on my big mouth from my mother. It took me a long time to realize on my own how hurtful my unasked-for insights could be. At eleven years old, walking down the aisle of a beach club—anyone remember Roche’s Beach Club in Far Rockaway?—I blurted out, “Mrs. Berger takes Valium and drinks scotch.” I didn’t even know what Valium was. My grandfather had schnapps, not scotch. One of Mrs. Berger’s friends was changing inside one of the wooden lockers and heard me. I was banned from the Bergers’ house. After that, not many other mothers wanted me around either. I was forced to apologize to Mrs. Berger, tell everyone I made it up, even though I felt in my gut that it was true.