This post was originally published on the Moving Forwards Memoir Collective Blog
I am writing a memoir about growing up feeling unloved and unwanted by my mother. My oldest son is a writer too. Originally, his MFA thesis was a fictional piece about a group of churches we encountered. Recently, he changed genres and presented his work as a memoir of “his bad childhood.” Three agents want it.
I know my husband and I did our very best. As I write my book, I am thinking about my own mother and how she will feel.
My son doesn’t want me to read his book, though he intends to verify things with me as he gets his proposal ready. As a writer, I am excited for him and I wish him every success. But now I find myself in the middle and not sure how to process this. I wonder if he’s exaggerating or being influenced in what he remembers. Then I wonder about my own memory and the recollections I have about my own childhood. As a writer who’s also being written about, how do I process this in a healthy way?
Never saw this coming…
Dear Never Saw This Coming,
In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should‘ve behaved better.” How easy it is to be cavalier with this statement when we hold the pen. Yet, when others hold the pen, we shudder.
You cannot control what your son writes. Nor should you. The process of writing a memoir is the process of voicing our subjective truths. We do this to integrate the experiences that don’t make sense to us. In the process of writing and revising, we discover our wholeness. To apply your version of the truth to his story would stifle his growth. I can see from your letter that you already know this.
But how do you hold onto your own truth as a writer? And how do you find ways to be okay no matter what he writes? Those are the real questions I need to answer.