December 3, 2007 § 3 Comments
A guest post from former Brevity intern Debbie Hagan:
“How do I write about my past without coming across like a jerk?” a student in my memoir class asked.
She was a sensitive, intellectual woman, who had made a foolish choice back in the 1960s. She had joined a radical student group that had planned to overthrow the government and stop the Vietnam War. Their criminal acts caused an innocent man to be killed. She had served her prison time, but continued to pay in personal remorse.
The following week, I struggled to find something to tell her. Then I found a quote that for me defined the real purpose of the personal memoir. It was from Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day…. “Does it happen all at once or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You come. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are REAL, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are REAL, you can’t be ugly, except to the people who don’t understand.”
I told my student that she had to be real. If she revealed her true self and experience to the world, then she could only be a jerk to those unwilling to understand.
— Debbie Hagan