What is Real

Pam Houston, Lidia YuknavitchMarion Winik.  These writers all new to me.  But since I came back from Cheryl Strayed’s memoir writing workshop, I can not help but want to know them intimately.

All three of these books are punch you in the gut good.  Like someone making you tea and sitting you down to tell you a big truth.  And when you understand that something you knew to be true actually is you drink the whole cup of tea in one gulp and then ask for another.  And then another.

In these five paragraphs from Contents May Have Shifted, Pam Houston tells a story of woman who was led to her new husband by the ghost of the man’s son from a first marriage.  The two later have a son together who also can communicate with the dead.  When a widowed man comes to visit, the woman asks her son to check in on the man’s wife from the other side.

Because I remember that Pam Houston’s says her books are 82% true, I think of this book as a memoir.  I imagine that this episode, with the couple and the bereft husband, might very well be true.  Even though the book is categorized as FIC on the New York Public Library tag.

It’s no accident that the protagonist is named Pam, just like the author.  I’m pretty sure both Pams are telling us something about the difference between fact and fiction.  Or about how important it is to tell your story especially if there are parts that others might find beyond belief.

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One Response to “What is Real”

  1. K. C. Mead Says:

    This is very interesting stuff — this question of memoir v. fiction. Thanks for sharing!

    You ought to check out this book by Herta B. Feely, “Confessions: Fact or Fiction?” It’s an anthology of different authors’ short stories meant to challenge reader expectations when it comes to memoir versus fiction.

    http://confessionsanthology.com/

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