I believe our paths are illuminated, our loneliness diminished by learning more about the lives of others. The ways in which they see themselves, inhabit their experiences help push open some of the doors to self-awareness. What we learn, through their sharing or exploring our own histories may not be what we sought. Truth can be a world-class ass kicker.
At their just-launched site, Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie, Susan T. Landry and Melissa Shook present a Cineramic look at memoir, all the angles, from self-portraits, interviews, discussion of books, submissions.
Here is an excerpt of Melissa Shook's interview with Patt Blue regarding Patt's memoir, LIVING ON A DREAM: A MARRIAGE TALE:
MS: When I read the
interviews that you made with your mother in Living on a Dream: A
Marriage Tale, I thought of the hundreds of thousands of women, over
many centuries, on different continents, those who have lived in similar
bondage through the edicts of their cultures and religions, through
lack of education and opportunities. I imagine that many were as lonely
as your mother, but also that others fit into more cohesive societies in
which women shared companionably in their rather confined lives.
Certainly we now know how many women don’t leave abusive
situations, even though the rage, physical and sexual abuse, alcoholism
or gambling addiction that their children are witnessing will affect
them for the rest of their lives.
On one level, I’m actually envious that your mother told you such
details, difficult as they must have been to listen to, of her life
with your father. I’ve always had the sense that something difficult
happened between my parents before my mother died, but I never learned
any details to help me understand what tensions they had.
On a different level, I was applauding you for the bravery of
recording those interviews, but wanting to scream, “Get the hell out of
there, now. Save yourself.”
PB: I was on a quest for truth. I wanted to know why
a woman stays with the abuser. I hoped to transcend the personal
darkness of the past by creating a book. As a photographer I was just
doing what I loved to do. I was looking for my next project and was
seeing with new eyes where I wanted to go by combining writing and
photography. I saw my own family story as an important American tragic
drama of universal proportions. I also thought emotional abuse was just
as devastating and destructive as physical abuse but wasn’t talked about
much so I wanted to bring awareness to it.
Knowing the sordid details changed me. Doing the work had emotional
consequences that were certainly not anticipated. I had not considered
that writing about my family trauma might not be the catalyst that
everyone assumes it will be. The personal memoir is a Pandora’s box; it
was for me. Suddenly I was faced with the hard cold unforgiving facts
and not my made-up stories or fragmented memories. It had to come, but
whether to make it public remains a question each memoirist has to
At the site you will find recommended memoirs, favorite bookstores and suggestions for self-publishing. Participating in "Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie" has been facilitated with a Submissions form. This is a place to learn through absorption, a pool in which we may dunk ourselves and emerge to find ordinary life more complex but possibly less baffling than it once seemed. Susan, Melissa, their interviews and contributors subtly reveal the infinite ways in which we are knitted together, in differences and similarities. This is a place of wisdom, exemplified, as Susan states it, by "...writing about true things in a true way."