My brother was in town for Thanksgiving. I live a thousand miles away from my immediate family, so I haven’t celebrated this holiday with family for years. And because of the distance, I don’t get a lot of face-to-face feedback on my writing from them, even though they are often my subjects. My oldest brother is a main character in my memoir, Through Eyes Like Mine, and has a strong presence in my forthcoming Overdue Apologies. Although he isn’t always painted in the best light (he did once try to make me drink his pee) he has always been supportive. When I’ve asked him to read my work and provide feedback his approval has been critical to how I felt about publishing stories where our lives overlap.
He just read a galley of Overdue Apologies, a middle school memoir. We spoke on the phone right after he finished and my brother provided a few factual corrections. But just like he had with Through Eyes Like Mine, he told me how much he enjoyed my take on those years of my life. He reads quite a bit of both fiction and nonfiction and thankfully, he reads memoirs and understands the fallibility of memory. So, although he didn’t agree with all my recollections, he didn’t ask me to make revisions to match his truth.
But as we lounged with full bellies in the living room over the holiday, he brought up my books again. He mentioned another couple of instances where he remembered things differently. He doesn’t think he tried to make me drink his pee. He doesn’t recall a family therapy session before he left for college. And his memories, or lack thereof, made me question what I’d written. Whose memories were right? Had I really recalled these events and captured the truth of our childhood? Had I imagined, dreamed, or fabricated these early childhood moments?
Thankfully, he didn’t care all that much that our memories were different. He put my mind at ease telling me, “It’s your book. You get to write your version” and this made me feel better. But part of me wishes he would write his own version. Maybe it would help book sales.