Anyone who writes memoir comes face to face, eventually, with the thorny problem of families. How do you write about those closest to you? How do you tell your own story fully without revealing the secrets of others? How do you write about family members without exposing their flaws — well, that’s not possible, so how do you expose flaws without causing pain? (Also probably not possible.)
Should you show family members your work in advance? If so, should you give them veto power?
Edited by memoirist Joy Castro, “Family Troubles” is a collection of essays by notable memoirists who have thought long and hard about these difficult issues. This is not an advice book; Castro knows there are no simple answers and no definitive right or wrong. But in these highly personal and very thoughtful pieces, Dinty Moore, Sandra Scofield, Mimi Schwartz and 22 others write about the paths they took, the deals they brokered and, occasionally, the books they decided not to write.
“Some people say that they can’t write freely until all the major characters are dead,” writes Susan Ito in her essay, “Living in Someone Else’s Closet.” “I just hope I can manage to do it before I’m dead myself.”
Writers of memoir will find this book helpful in thinking through their own decisions; readers of memoir will be interested in understanding the anguish that goes on behind the scenes.