This NY Times article about Julie Myerson’s memoir highlights the issues all memoir writers face: how to tell one’s own story without losing one’s friends and family.
The Times also takes a look at Kaylie Jones’s memoir, noting that for Jones, “it’s payback time.” The memoir “exposes her mother’s cruelty, narcissism and heavy drinking, reeling off story after story about her mother’s scorching wisecracks and bravura displays of malice.” Yet, as the article points out, both Jones’s parents are dead.
Myerson, writing about her son’s drug addiction, has to face her subject, who denounced the book when it was first published in Britain. Myerson told the times “had she known what a firestorm would break, ‘I wouldn’t have done it.’”
Interestingly, the author is less worried about the American reading public than the British one; American writers have “revealed addictions, incest, betrayal, madness, pedophilia, abuse, criminality, violence and more in the name of truth, catharsis, social responsibility and art.” Yet even when they don’t have to worry about the general audience, authors of memoir do have to worry about the lives they touch when writing their stories.
The article quotes several authors — including David Sheff (author of the memoir “Beautiful Boy”) and Susan Cheever — on writing about themselves and their families, and it’s clear that this is difficult territory. Even more challenging is that a family member can give his or her blessing to a project only to regret it later on.
Sheff says, “I don’t think we have carte blanche to tell even our own stories,” while Cheever believes “everybody has the right to their own story.” Both are right, of course. We do have the right to our own stories. It’s when the choice or opportunity to publish comes along that we need to consider whether we should exercise that right or not.
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