Monday, February 22, 2016

The Past is Never Dead. It's not Even Past.

I recently read Paula McLain's memoir, Like Family - Growing Up in Other People's Houses. Abandoned by both parents, McLain and her sisters grew up in foster care. As the middle sister, McLain offers her perspective of their shared experience.  I was drawn in and held tight by McLain's vivid, flowing prose, her unflinching honesty, and her tenacity in overcoming her childhood challenges as a ward of the Fresno County, California court.

As a memoirist struggling with the family dynamics of publishing stories of shared experiences,  A conversation with Paula McLain in the final pages caught my eye. This particular question and answer feel so close, so real, I'd give my right arm to have written it, to be able to write it, for it to be my own truth. While the first half of the quote is not my truth, the second half haunts me. To deal with those haunts, I suppose I need a reality check now and again. I'm grateful to McLain, and to Faulkner, for just that.
How do your sisters feel about Like Family?  How were your personal experiences different from those of your sisters?

My sisters have been very supportive of the book all the way along, and proud of me for undertaking the project. I'm deeply grateful for this, particularly since I know they would never have elected to be revealed in such a way. Both of them have said that reading certain passages - even from the distance of twenty-some years, and the additional buffer that the telling was my version of events, not their own - was like reliving memories, experiencing them and the attendant pain and disappointment afresh. Being aware of their feelings has caused me some unease. My sisters have their own versions of our childhood, as well as their own strategies for dealing with the fallout. My sense is that they both feel more comfortable with the past behind them, or at least at a manageable distance from themselves. While I respect this, I'm more inclined to agree with Faulkner, who said, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

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