Two pieces of writing crossed my field of view before I was fully awake today. The first piece was from the New York Times but it was brought to my attention through a writer-friend on Facebook. The NYT article, When Writers Expose the Dead, is about writing memoir. The second piece is The Homeschool Apostates in The American Prospect.
Combining the two streams of information was a natural for me as I am writing a memoir of growing up in 20th Century America in a dysfunctional family that only makes sense when I look at it as a family cult. These two articles mapped onto my experience in a way that was both meaningful and enlightening.
Of course all this was gelling as the caffeine did its work and Morgan Freeman’s Wormhole was providing background context as I thought about women victimizing their own children in order to gather positive acknowledgement from their culture or community. Unequal access to resources perverts control over the resources to which one does have access and is reflected in some of the sayings in our culture.
- Big Fish in a Little Pond
- Rob Peter to Pay Paul
- Poison the Well
I keep realizing new ways I can organize sections of my book. I have to stop doing this and just pick one format for the final product and go with it. This current ability to format one’s own works is a curse for those of us who know that structure has tremendous impact on the finished product.
Today I realized I need to have sections in the memoir that do allow for explicit conjecture of why my mother allowed, fostered, and created the medically abusive situations she did. I also realize that I should reference her confessed desire to be a teacher. This of course could and probably should segue into a brief mention of the home-school apostates movement. And that suggest to me that I should also mention how economic collapse crushed my father’s dreams and consequently allowed for frustration spill over into unhealthy and deleterious behavior over many generations.
If I am going to dredge up issues and facts with which the dead, if they had a say, would not be comfortable, I should use them to illustrate cultural and societal trends which these dead would have agreed should be exposed and understood. To have this be something other than a vindictive, navel-gazing exercise I must incorporate this level of analysis. But I have to do this in a way that is not overly analytical and just conversational so as to appeal to a non-technical reader.
For want of a nail…
I just have to finish this project off.
Any thoughts or tactics on finishing up this type of written work would be greatly appreciated.
Though not writing a memoir, I have taken 6 real women and woven their lives into an historical novel. They are all dead and the group, The Allied Arts, to whom they belonged has been gone for over 20 years, yet I wanted their voices to be heard. I think that is what we want to do for those who are gone, to give them a voice that may have never been heard when they were alive, living the life set before them. Only in retrospect do we see the lessons learned from their lives lived.
Reaching into the past and giving voice to those who did not live into the digital age is a special kind of care-taking. There is so much to do! I will check out this group and your work when published. Let me know!