E-Publishing Loves Daughter Memoirs

25 Mar

I just finished reading Cris Beam’s short memoir Mother/Stranger about growing up with a mother so mentally ill that she told her family that her daughter was dead, when, in fact, she had just moved away for her own safety.

Beam is a creative writing professor at Columbia University who also wrote Transparent, a nonfiction book that covers seven years in the lives of four transgender teenagers, which won the Lambda Literary Award in 2008.

Mother/Stranger is one of several very short memoirs I’ve recently downloaded as Kindle reader editions. These books can run from free to 99-cents and are often less than $10. There are a ton of new biographies and memoirs written by first effort authors who have struggled with toxic mothers.

One of my other favorites is by June Cross entitled Secret Daughter: A Mixed Race Daughter and the Mother who gave her away.  When her white aspiring actress mother has a love affair with a black comedian, she first intends to keep her baby – – if it can pass for white.

But this was the 1950’s and soon, June Cross is placed with a loving black couple living in Atlantic City. Her story of bouncing back and forth between the east coast where education and hard work are valued to summers in Hollywood where all that matters is the next fun party is fascinating particularly because she loves her mother and the “Aunt” who raised her, but struggles with literally being a secret.

Cross graduates from an Ivy League school and eventually becomes a producer for the television news show Frontline. It is in telling her own story of creating a documentary about her unique experiences that she shines.

I always say that you shouldn’t be afraid of your own story and that if you have to go out and interview relatives – do it! Cross shows us how to conduct an interview, when she finally asks her own mother all of the questions that have tortured her for her entire life. I was on the edge of my seat.

I asked for a Kindle reader this Christmas and received a Kindle Fire. Having had a library card since I was six-years-old and being the type of person who visits my local branch twice a week at least, I thought I’d mainly use it to download big, long, challenging reads. But what I’ve discovered is that e-publishing is making available so many little books written by real people and at such a low-cost, instantly via Amazon.com and other providers, that I’m reading like a maniac.

These earnest little books that can be read in one setting are often less than 100 pages and feel like meeting someone on a plane or a bus. We have a tendency to tell strangers so much more than we would ever tell our own social circle, don’t we?  These books feel like a whispered conversation. Almost like we’ve found an abandoned diary and are turning pages quickly for fear its owner will return and snatch it from our hands.

The other great thing about Kindle reading is that you can highlight lines and create a treasure trove of nuggets. I was highlighting a lot of Beam’s book Mother/Stranger. For example:

“I remembered the way my mother had told her family that I was dead and wondered if they ever believed it. I thought how strange it was to be a ghost: solid enough for everyone’s projections to land and stick but too ephemeral to fight back.”

Beam has great insights into what a child must suffer through having a mother with mental illness. She also reserves great sympathy for her mother.

“After therapy or years of a safe and protected life, a person can suddenly give language to what was once only a sensory terror. That’s what happened with my mom.”

She also has a great way of looking at the big picture, at one point writing that “estrangement runs in our family.”

Whether you use a library card, a laptop, or a Kindle reader be sure to explore these new memoirs that might help you to better understand your own experience. Check out the online book descriptions and be sure to skip down to the reader reviews that often refer to additional books.

Have you read a good memoir lately? Please tell us about it in the comments section below

Happy Reading!

Advertisements

5 Responses to “E-Publishing Loves Daughter Memoirs”

  1. fibrolifemusings March 25, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    had a great evening with my daughter watching Rear Window at the Artcraft! I

  2. retrogal09 March 25, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    A Day By The Sun wrote by Dean Faulkner Wells is a great book. It is about her life with her uncle William Faulkner.

    • collectingjourneys March 31, 2012 at 3:07 am #

      I’ll have to check that out! I love Faulkner!

  3. eternaltravelerdesignyourlife March 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    I’m reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography: Long walk to freedom. This is a whole different story of course. But still has a lot to do with toxic people…It is longer than 100 pages though. Oh gosh! 😀

    • collectingjourneys March 31, 2012 at 3:10 am #

      I love the whole story about Nelson Mandela asking permission to grow tomatoes in prison. He’d ask the warden once each year and each year the warden said no. Finally, for some reason, the warden gave permission and Nelson set to work. When the first tomato ripened he nurtured it and protected it and when it was at its height of growth he picked it and with humble gratitude delivered it to the warden. I just love that story. The way he tells it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: