Monday, January 14, 2013

There are places I remember: Memoir

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 reckon with.

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."


susan t. landry said...

i so appreciate you spreading the word on this, marylinn--and for your own beautiful gem of a contribution, in The Roundhouse section!

Penelope said...

Claire has pointed me there and your post has taken me to the Roundhouse — fabulous. Let the reading begin.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - My pleasure to help and to have a part in the grand debut, thank you. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Penelope - Yes, let the reading begin. What a splendid launch. xo