Memory and Truth–Three Different Memoirs from One Family

You may have read about how Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs created dissension in his own family and in the family of Dr. Finch, the psychiatrist with whom Burroughs went to live at the age of 13. There have been law suits charging defamation of character and invasion of privacy.

This book, which was a bestseller in 2002, has been joined by memoirs by his brother John Elder Robison and most recently, from his estranged mother, Margaret Robison.

Reporter Lynn Neary on Morning Edition of NPR today interviewed all three members of the family this morning. Listen or read the transcript here.

Neary’s conclusion is one we need to hear and discuss:

“Memoirs have been much maligned of late because they are all about memory. But while they may be notoriously unreliable vehicles for facts, they are endlessly fascinating sources of speculation about what really is the truth.”

I confess that, although I have been reading about Burroughs, his law suits, and his family, I have not read any one of the books mentioned in the NPR story. Have you? Please enlighten us with your thoughts.

About Shirley Hershey Showalter

Author of memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. Blogging about Magical Memoir Moments and Jubilación -- vocation in the second half of life.
This entry was posted in Memoir Controversies, Memoir in the News, radio and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Memory and Truth–Three Different Memoirs from One Family

  1. Running With Scissors is on my list! Like you, I have read about some of the lawsuits, but doubt they will affect my reaction. Writing about real people is so hard, and so many are touchy, it’s no wonder this one is controversial.

    • shirleyhs says:

      Let me know what you think when you’ve read the book. And, yes, it would be hard to tell his story without causing a stir. Some very bizarre behavior, some of it illegal, much of it reprehensible. From the radio broadcast it seems that the mother and brother agree on many points with Burroughs but interpret their experiences differently.

  2. I have read three of Augusten Burroughs memoirs – Running With Scissors, Dry, and A Wolf at the Table. Each has a different tone, but they all make for electric, witty reading. Having lived with a sociopath (spouse), and now writing my own stories, I could see the truth in the events, the dialogue. I believe the memoirs have the essence of truth, regardless of minor differences in details. There is no argument Augusten grew up with mental illness all around him. Good for him that he could enrich our lives from it.

    • shirleyhs says:

      Welcome to the conversation. Looks like you are just beginning the blogging/memoir journey. Thanks for sharing your admiration for Burroughs. And sounds like you have a very powerful story of your own. All best, and come back often.

  3. Shirley, I have only read “”Running with Scissors”” but I found it fascinating. I tend to think no one gets to say for each of us what is our Truth. My siblings have taken offense to my upcoming memoir but have admitted that my experience of life in our family and theirs was different. Even as siblings, we don’t live in the same family.

    Did Burroughs get all the facts right? We as his readers have no way of knowing that. Could it still be his Truth even if some facts are inaccurate? I think, yes. Does his memoir still deserve attention? Definitely. Reading memoirs has given me tremendous insight into other families and helped me realize the Leave it to Beaver families are rare if not fairy tale.

    Thanks for the links to the NPR story.

    • shirleyhs says:

      Hi, Brenda. Good to see you hear again and to check out your website. You have quite a story to tell, and from the fragments I read, you are telling it well. All the best as your memoir is published.

      Yes, you will speak your own truth. If you are clear about your motive, are telling the truth as you know it, and are not using your memoir as a way to seek revenge or hurt others, then you can tell your story your way. As with the Robison’s, other family members can tell their own stories.

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