Monday, June 23, 2014

A Delay Can Last a Lifetime

This piece by a student is about writing memoir. It was written in response to a discussion about The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit. I am always touched by these, especially since Rebecca Solnit herself writes about the act of writing memoir in this memoir.

At our quarterly Read and Write, we first read aloud from the book, weaving around themes and understandings. Then we pick passages that make good prompts and write from those for a bit, then share with each other.

The selected prompt here is "A delay can last a lifetime," which provoked many of my students, who tend to be women in their late 40's, 50's and 60's. We discussed Malcolm Gladwell's article Late Bloomers from a 2008 New Yorker, which has come back to my attention a few times recently. This is a huge topic in the "boomer" generation and in the world of growing interest in memoir. How late is too late? Ever?

This whole piece is a lovely contemplation, but lines such as these really struck all of our attention: "The heart has a hard time hiding truth, hiding joy, hiding pain,""I have begun to fill them as my memories leak out like poison gas from that box," and " Like Mohammed I will be the messenger of my memories’ tales. I will tell them in their voices word for word."


A delay can last a lifetime... (prompt from Rebecca Solnit - The Faraway Nearby)
Student Writing
By Christa Bruhn

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Wisdom of Adolescence

Me, age 14.
I've been struggling with re-writing the teen years aspects of my memoir. It's so easy to say things I did or others did were mean, which I know is minimalizing and inaccurate. How can I depict, exactly, what happened between A and me, when I consciously thought she was "not cool" and so distanced myself, and yet, underneath, I also knew something I couldn't articulate for decades: that she also triggered me, was too close to my own trauma?

Last night, reading the latest issue of the New Yorker (don't be fooled - I am not caught up on its weekly overload. I just happened to pick up the issue that appeared in our mailbox and started there) I saw this passage in an article about John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars:
Green told me, “I love the intensity teen-agers bring not just to first love but also to the first time you’re grappling with grief, at least as a sovereign being—the first time you’re taking on why people suffer and whether there’s meaning in life, and whether meaning is constructed or derived. Teen-agers feel that what you conclude about those questions is going to matter. And they’re dead right. It matters for adults, too, but we’ve almost taken too much power away from ourselves. We don’t acknowledge on a daily basis how much it matters.”