I took an autobiographical literature class in college in the spring of 2006.
Among other books, we read James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces.” This book was published as a memoir, but while we were reading and discussing the book, it became known that the story was greatly embellished — to the point that many actually considered it a work of fiction, based on a true story.
Oprah Winfrey, at some point in 2005, had placed Frey’s book on her book list.
One of the discussion starters we had while reading Frey’s book was watching Oprah’s second interview with Frey — the one where she totally ripped him apart for ruining her reputation because his book had been published as a memoir instead of a work of fiction based on a true story.
When working with autobiographical literature, one has to take into consideration the idea of perception versus reality.
For example, Frey’s book was about his experience in a drug rehabilitation center. He was coming off drugs, so his perception was obviously going to be a little — or a lot! — screwed up.
In that class, we also discussed several other autobiographical works where an author told his/her story, and when his/her family read it, they said, “That did not happen!” In some cases, the family sued the author, and in some cases, the author was completely cut off from family.
My professor said at that point that she believed that it was going to become necessary for autobiographical authors to begin their stories with a disclaimer stating that the story is based on the perception of the author, and that other people in the story may have a completely different story.
I wanted to take a moment to say just that. I had a messed up childhood, but my story is MY story. It has been filtered through the lens of MY past experience, MY pain, MY fear, and MY struggles. Any of my brothers or either of my parents could also tell the story, but I guarantee, every single version of the story would be different. None of them are less true than another.
I want to say to my family that I so value your thoughts and opinions, and if you want to challenge any part of my story, feel free to do so. But please do so knowing that I am not going to change my story. I will listen. I will respect what you have to say to me. BUT, your story isn’t going to change mine. This is MY story about how I experienced MY life.
That being said, I want to say to my family that my telling my story is in no way intended to cause you pain or embarrassment. I’m telling my story for me. It is something I have to do in order to fully understand who I am and where I’ve been, and in order to grow and become the best person I can be.
Lastly, I want to say that my family means everything to me and the last thing I want to do is alienate anyone. Please be patient with me as I go through this process. I love you!