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  • Writer's pictureBeth Pandolpho

You Don't Need Anyone's Approval to Tell Your Story

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

Ashley C. Ford’s memoir, Somebody’s Daughter, is unapologetically honest, as she shares the most intimate details of her life so vividly it’s almost as if she’s giving you a peek at her home movies. As she unravels the details about her mother’s unpredictable bursts of anger and her father’s decades long imprisonment, it’s hard not to wonder what her parents might feel as a result of being exposed so publicly by their daughter.

In this interview with Brené Brown, who has also written very honestly about her own childhood, they both reveal how they’ve dealt with this concern, and yet maintained relationships with their parents.

Brown says about the writing she’s done about her mother, “If she reads it and she’s pissed, that’s okay. If she reads it and she’s proud, that’s okay. Most likely, she’ll read some of it and be proud and pissed and that’s okay too.”

Similarly, Ford says about her mother, “I don’t need her to read it or like it, or even be proud of it. I don’t have that kind of relationship with my mom where I feel this want for her in this place of my life. And sometimes I feel really bad about that.”

They both stress the importance of sharing personal traumas, and cite Roxane Gay’s essay, “Writing Into the Wound: Understanding Trauma, Truth and Language” in which Gay writes, “We share our stories. We try to find the right words. We try to be truthful and fair to ourselves and to others. We try to be free. There is no pleasure to be had in writing about trauma. It requires opening a wound, looking into the bloody gape of it and cleaning it out one word at a time.”

As I read Gay's words, I cringe at the thought of the pain involved in opening up my own wounds - which sadly, is compounded by the fact that I'm still very much wrapped up in seeking other people’s approval. One day I'm hoping to abide by Anne Lamott's advice, "If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should've behaved better."

Memoirs are my favorite genre because between those pages, writers share their most intimate stories with me as if I am their trusted friend. I am consistently heartened by their truths, and awed by their bravery in telling them.

It is my hope to gain strength, solace, and inspiration from all of these women because I do believe, as difficult as it might be, our liberation lies in telling our story.

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