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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FAQs on Annie’s Ghosts (#3)

Another favorite FAQ at my talks on Annie’s Ghosts:

Q. If your mom were still alive, would you have written your book?

A. Whenever I’m asked this question, I pause long enough for silence to set in, long enough for the audience to wonder whether I'm going to reply, and I say, “Are you kidding me?”

Then I take a more serious shot at the question. It’s not a tough one to answer: I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t have written this book, the one called Annie's Ghosts. Why? Because my mom’s death triggered the events that led me to believe that I could tell her motivations for keeping Annie a secret and that I could explore Annie’s unknown life.

If my mom were still alive, the story would not have unfolded as it did. The first concrete clue – the forwarded letter from the cemetery that listed Annie’s grave and finally revealing her name – only came to us because my mom was no longer alive to receive it.

Who knows what would have happened if my mom had decided to reveal her secret while she were alive? I imagine that conversation sometimes: Listening to her, gently asking her questions, trying to understand. I know this: I wouldn’t have been thinking about writing a book. As I wrote in Annie’s Ghosts, while my mom was alive, I was very much the son, not the journalist.

If she were still alive, the secret would still be her story. It only became my story – my journey into the secret – after she died.

That’s how I look at it. How would you have reacted? Feel free to leave a comment.

Next: “Did you find out exactly why your mom . . .”

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