Family Trouble


Family Trouble

Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family

Edited and with an introduction by Joy Castro

232 pages


October 2013


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eBook (EPUB)
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March 2020


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eBook (PDF)
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October 2013


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About the Book

Whenever a memoirist gives a reading, someone in the audience is sure to ask: How did your family react? Revisiting our pasts and exploring our experiences, we often reveal more of our nearest and dearest than they might prefer. This volume navigates the emotional and literary minefields that any writer of family stories or secrets must travel when depicting private lives for public consumption.

Essays by twenty-five memoirists, including Faith Adiele, Alison Bechdel, Jill Christman, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Rigoberto González, Robin Hemley, Dinty W. Moore, Bich Minh Nguyen, and Mimi Schwartz, explore the fraught territory of family history told from one perspective, which, from another angle in the family drama, might appear quite different indeed. In her introduction to this book, Joy Castro, herself a memoirist, explores the ethical dilemmas of writing about family and offers practical strategies for this tricky but necessary subject.

A sustained and eminently readable lesson in the craft of memoir, Family Trouble serves as a practical guide for writers to find their own version of the truth while still respecting family boundaries.

Author Bio

Joy Castro is a professor of both English and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is the author of several books including Island of Bones (winner of an International Latino Book Award in nonfiction), The Truth Book, and How Winter Began: Stories


"For any writer of memoirs . . . a must-read."—Publishers Weekly

"[Family Trouble is] a well-balanced panoply of family-centric musings from authors conflicted between responsibility and retribution."—Kirkus

"Those who are writing in the genre would benefit greatly from these authors' self-questions, doubts, and concerns for others whose silences they have broken."—Lavona Reeves, Great Plains Quarterly

"Writers of memoir will find this book helpful in thinking through their own decisions; readers of memoir will be interested in understanding the anguish that goes on behind the scenes."—Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

“The writers in Joy Castro’s Family Trouble tell moving stories that probe the ethics of our choices and their consequences when we write about our family members. I know I’ll be recommending this book to my students for years to come.”—Lee Martin, author of Such a Life and From Our House

“What a valuable anthology! And how many times over the years I have taught creative nonfiction would I have reached for this anthology, with its testimonies to the fine lines these writers have drawn, and crossed, and recrossed, and regretted, and celebrated.”—Mary Clearman Blew, author of This Is Not the Ivy League

Table of Contents

Introduction: Mapping Hope

      Joy Castro

Part 1. Drawing Lines

Chewing Band-Aids: One Memoirist's Take on the Telling of Family Secrets

      Jill Christman

Sally Could Delete Whatever She Wanted

      Paul Austin

Case by Case: When It Comes to Family You Still Have to Talk To

      Mimi Schwartz

At Its Center

      Paul Lisicky

The Day I Cried at Starbucks

      Ruth Behar

Memory Lessons

      Rigoberto González

The Part I Can't Tell You

      Ariel Gore

Part 2. The Right to Speak

What the Little Old Ladies Feel: How I Told My Mother about My Memoir

      Alison Bechdel

Truths We Could Live With

      Robin Hemley

Writing the Black Family Home

      Faith Adiele

The Deeper End of the Quarry: Fiction, Nonfiction, and the Family Dilemma

      Dinty W. Moore

Mama's Voices

      Susan Olding

Living in Someone Else's Closet

      Susan Ito

Part 3. Filling the Silence

The True Story

      Karen Salyer McElmurray

I Might Be Famous

      Ralph James Savarese

A Spell against Sorrow: Writing My Father In

      Judith Ortiz Cofer

Things We Don't Talk About

      Aaron Raz Link

You Can't Burn Everything

      Allison Hedge Coke

Done with Grief: The Memoirist's Illusion

      Sandra Scofield

Part 4. Conversations of Hope

The Seed Book

      Stephanie Elizondo Griest

Calling Back

      Lorraine M. López

Like Rain on Dust

      Richard Hoffman

The Bad Asian Daughter

      Bich Minh Nguyen

Your Mother Should Know

      Sue William Silverman

Writing about Family

      Heather Sellers


Source Acknowledgments


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