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Sunday, August 15, 2010

FAQs on Annie's Ghosts (#5 and the last)

This is the final installment of FAQs on Annie's Ghosts. The questions are based on ones I have been asked at talks and other events since the book came out last year. If you have already read the book, and have a question that you would like me to answer, you can send me an email. The address is

Q: How did writing Annie's Ghosts affect your relationships with your siblings and other family members?

A: I love this question. It implies that I was brave, that I had to withstand pressures from other family members who thought I shouldn't write about my mom's secret.

Not remotely true. I like to joke that the family reaction was so measured, so reasonable, that I have no second book about the terrible psychodramas brought about by the first.

That is just a joke. It's gratifying to know that the book has not caused any rifts in the family. It did bring about a lot of interesting discussions, particularly with my older brother (who was skeptical, he said, that I could ever reach my goal of standing in Mom's shoes, of truly understanding her motivations for hiding her sister's existence). But in some ways, it brought us closer together. My siblings all liked the final product, and felt that I did reach one of my other goals -- to write a book of understanding, not of judgment. My older brother, Mike, has not let his skepticism get in the way of brotherly pride. He has been nothing but supportive since the book's publication.

The biggest surprise, for me, was that writing the book brought me closer to my parents, particularly my mom. I did something quite rare: I got to know my parents at an age before I was born.

Think about it: By the time most of us have any sense of our parents as individuals -- as people who have or had a life that has nothing to do with being a father or a mother -- our parents are 30 or older, and going on middle age. Writing Annie's Ghosts allowed me the pleasure of discovering my mom at the age of 23, before her marriage, before she had children, before she created her secret.

It made her come alive again -- but not as she had died, unhappy and suffering -- but as a vibrant, lively young woman who saw the promise of life ahead, who refused to be weighed down by her family's poverty and misfortune.

What a gift.

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