Saturday night at my book club, I brought up my book, with the intent of asking some questions of readers outside my “target audience”. I know who I’m writing this for, primarily young women like myself, families of those young women, people interested in mental and spiritual healing through psychedelics, xennials and millennials. My audience is varied. My book club, however, is not. My book club consists mostly of wasp-y baby boomers. All are military spouses or spouses of retired military. I am the youngest member, the only one on the cusp of millennial and Gen-X.
There were only a handful of members still there when I broached the subject, “What’s the best memoir you’ve ever read? What was its message? What do you like and not like about reading a memoir?”
I gave a short “elevator pitch” about Crazy Isn’t Part TIme.
“I hate when they blame someone else for all their problems. Like, they didn’t know what they were getting into,” the lady next to me scoffed. Ouch, well, thank you for that, I didn’t know what I was getting into but I’ve definitely tried my best to lay out that our choices are products of our environment but still they are our choices. Moving on…. maybe.
“Well, you married someone in the military. So did we. You married a man in the army, you knew what the chances were for having a normal life.”
Did I? Earlier, in actually talking about the book we read, Beartown by the fabulous Fredrik Backman, and in discussing insular small town thinking, I mentioned that where I grew up, contraception and sex ed were not discussed until after you were married, and usually then only with your doctor. If I wasn’t educated on the basics of sexual health, how was I expected to know at 19 about PTSD, psychological abuse, and narcissistic personality disorder? How was I supposed to know when to quit a bad relationship when all I was shown growing up was that divorce was a failure and a sin, that if you could forgive then that was what God asked of you. I didn’t get into that with them last night.
“How old are you?”
“37” I could tell my voice had squeaked up into a higher register out of anxiety.
“Most of us are at least 20 years older than you. What could you have to write about that we could learn from? When I think of a memoir, I think of a life fully lived. Your book is maybe an experience book, but it couldn’t be a memoir. Maybe it’s semantics, but I wouldn’t read a memoir by someone half my age.”
My self doubts, held in hand by the mean girl in the back of my mind, came snapping to my heels.
What have I lived? What have I learned from it? What could I possibly know that is worth sharing? Why would anyone care? These thoughts swirled up around me like a dust devil. Is this all just too much hubris?
The girl I am writing this book for is maybe not like me. Maybe she is happy. Maybe she has a strong relationship with her family. Maybe she’s religious, maybe she’s not and never has been. Maybe she isn’t a she at all, but a young man, trying to understand his family of origin. But, maybe she is just like I was, afraid of moving forward in life on her own, and clinging to something that is hurting her more every day. Maybe she is staring at the door to her future and unable to see that the key to it is already in her own hand.
Maybe 50+ book club ladies won’t like my story. Maybe they won’t appreciate my journey or my voice. Maybe I’m not writing for them. I’m not worried about who likes me, but what I can do for those who love me and those I love.
In thinking about this over the last few days, I looked up some Millennial and under-40 memoirists. Here’s an article listing some under-40 memoirs that might be good to add to your summer reading list. Reading through this list, I recognize some authors and some themes, but none are my story. None are the story of the global war on terror and the intimate and societal fallout it has had on my generation. That is why I have to write it.