Western Pennsylvania

Writing About the Ones That We Love

So I few years ago, I read an article in one of the Pittsburgh newspapers about The Girl Factory” by Karen Dietrich.

This is a young woman’s memoir about growing up in Connellsville, Pennsylvania in the aftermath of a multi-fatality factory shooting that made its way into the national news cycle.  Both of the author’s parents worked for that same factory at the time of the shooting. Also, the author explores her own experiences with sexual abuse and mental abuse.

So this book examines heavy subject material.

I’m not gonna lie. I purchased the book and read it because the author graduated from high school the same year as me.

Imagine being my age, and struggling in Pennsylvania from birth to early adulthood, and then publishing a memoir about this!

I never met this author. However, we both grew up in depressed western Pennsylvania towns. We grew up a county apart. I found out later that I actually knew people that went to high school with her. (I went to college with some of the author’s former high school classmates. You know, because we all graduated from high school the same year.)

I wanted to read about the path that brought the author to her writing career. I wanted to read about how the author handled life as a smart, creative girl growing up in a town that didn’t really value her for her brains.

This memoir has the cojones to address meaty topics (as many memories do) and I respect the author for this.

Here’s the thing that I found most interesting about “The Girl Factory:”

On one of the popular book review websites, a poster claimed to be the author’s VERY close family member.  This poster gave the book the lowest possible score, and claimed that this memoir titled “The Girl Factory” hurt their family.

So when you write about your own family and acquaintances, what responsibility do you have to them?

Do you owe your family anything?

Or do you owe your family everything?

Or is whole thing grey, just like most else in life?

I’ve read a LOT of stuff from authors who wrote about their own families.

Sometimes the authors threw their families under the bus.

Sometimes the authors canonized their family members.

(For instance, Laura Ingalls Wilder did both in her “Little House” books.)

I ask myself this when I blog. I also ask myself this when I read stuff that other family members write.

My personal answer to this question will evolve, no doubt.