Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Art Of A Memoir: The Golden Sky


Everyone has a story to tell and there are millions of writers out there telling them. Often these are fiction, stories we shape from the crazy characters yammering on in our heads. But then there are those who tell their own stories: the memoir writers who pull their inspiration from a piece of their lives.


One of my favorite books is Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I was fortunate to listen to it on audio. I’m not sure I would’ve fallen in love with it as much simply reading the words, but hearing it . . . I’m not sure how to explain the power of Frank McCourt’s voice as he told his heartbreaking tale. I felt a surge of honor listening to his story and smiled as he sang his Irish ditties. But mostly, I was mesmerized, mesmerized by his strength and his will to carry on.


Another favorite of mine is Night by Elie Weisel. It’s the story of a young Jewish boy and his father struggling to survive a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. At one point, Elie refers to his father as “dead weight”. The burden that boy must’ve felt as he silently wished for his father’s death settled into my soul and never left. This was a real boy, experiencing real torture. Not made up. Not a dream.

Then of course, there is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, which I also prefer on audio. The audio brings her life—life which should’ve never been taken away. This young writer leads us through her adolescence with hope, despite all the death around her. We want her to succeed, however we know something that Anne does not. Each day she writes to her fabled “Kitty,” we know is a day closer to death, a day she wouldn’t see her dreams realized.


A couple years ago, I had the privilege of reading the journal of another young girl—a woman embarking on a journey of her own. At nineteen, she discovered the baby she carried inside her had serious birth defects. Doctors suggested she terminate the pregnancy. It was hopeless: the baby wouldn’t survive.

Elisa struggled to come to terms with the idea of ending the life of the baby who still moved and fluttered within her. She fought with God and ultimately decided to give her child a chance. 

Zeke is born and struggles to hang on, but that does not deter Elisa from doing what any mother should and fight for strength. He has good days and bad yet he still clings to life. There was hope  at one point, unfortunately, a nurse’s mistake changes everything and little Zeke takes a turn.

Elisa and her husband, Cade, watch their son falter and struggle against the pain of living. It is then they make the decision to let him go—to breathe on his own for the final time.

The rest of the memoir shows what happens to their lives as they battle through guilt, loss, and anger. Their relationship crumbles; Elisa questions her faith in God, survives a “rogue skunk,” finds redemption in “the good morning yahoos” all the while caring for her three-year-old daughter. Money is tight—nonexistent—and she often relies simply on the “oatmeal option” to make it day to day.

As heartbreaking as her story is, it was laugh out loud funny. I’ve known the writer for some time and had experienced all the crazy things that only seemed to happen to her, but I couldn’t believe her luck with the absurd.
Ever wonder what happens when your husband doesn't get around to fixing the toilet?  Elisa's husband doesn't. 


To preserve the authenticity of her journal, Elisa copied her words straight from the spiral notebooks, napkins, scrap papers, and hardbound diaries to the computer. It’s all real—all her. She struggled with how much to take out, while making it readable and real. She’s a storyteller by nature and although she could’ve taken liberties with her story, she didn’t. She wanted the words of that na├»ve and impressionable nineteen year old to come through. She once told me that although it was painful and terribly personal to put herself out there for all to dissect, she had to do it. If her story could help one person, then she’d relive it all over and over again. 

Because . . . 
The Golden Sky  comes after the storm






I'm honored to add Elisa's story to my favorite memoirs. Not only does she show strength in the face of such sadness, but she shows us all that despite the pain, we can laugh and find the bright light in anything. 


If you have a moment check out the link above and consider adding The Golden Sky to your list too. Or if you simply want a laugh or several, check out Elisa at her blog: The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom 




16 comments:

Pam Asberry said...

I read "Angela's Ashes" in print but listened to the sequel, "Teacher Man," on CD as recorded by Frank McCourt. I know what you mean about the poignance of the sound of his voice. I loved Anne Frank's diary, too, but Elie Weisel's book is still in my TBR pile. And now, thanks to you, so is Elisa's memoir. I too carried a "defective" child to term, despite advice to the contrary, and wouldn't have missed those six days with my daughter for anything. Thank you for the great reviews.

Stephanie D said...

Elisa's writing is magical and genuine. I've enjoyed it very much over the past year. Beautiful review!

fishducky said...

This was a beautiful review of Elisa's journal--one of the most compelling books I have ever read. She made me cry, too--& LAUGH! Elisa may be young, but I believe she has an old soul. I am proud to call her my friend.

Susan Kane said...

Elisa is an old soul, I believe; she experienced so much pain at such a young age, yet emerged with youthful exuberance. Like 'Fishducky', I consider Elisa as my friend. She is an awesome story teller.

Diana said...

Thanks for coming by. I hope you get a chance to read "Night" and "The Golden Sky"

Diana said...

She is one of the most talented persons I know. That girl does everything and well. Too bad she's so unattractive...wait! Dang, she even does that well. hahaha:) love her!

Diana said...

I wish I could tell you stories that would embarrass her to death, but unfortunately she reveals it all. What's a friend to do? haha

Diana said...

She is amazing for sure. She and I have had a ball together.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I'm such an escapist (with books and films) that I rarely read true stories or misery memoirs but Elisa's story sounds both unbelievable and inspiring. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Jen Chandler said...

These are beautiful write ups of memoirs. I personally find memoirs very hard to read. I'm too much of am empath and I literally feel everything the person is going through. I'll be depressed for days after reading some things and have to be very careful. But that doesn't keep me from admiring the people who are courageous enough to send their lives out there to inspire and encourage others who may be going through or have gone through the same struggles. To see people triumph over horrors is enough to make anyone "woman up" to their own challenges and overcome!

Happy Wednesday,
Jen

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

Diana,
Thank you so much for this. It's beautiful!

Diana said...

I do think they aren't for everyone. I think I like them because they remind me not to take anything for granted, not to whine about my misfortunes but to celebrate life and what I have.

Diana said...

Great comment! Thanks for stopping by.

Diana said...

No problem. I always told you I believed in what you were doing. Zeke would be really proud.

Austin James said...

I remember reading Angela's Ashes when I was in high school... I really enjoyed it - Those Irish know how to tell a story. I need to read the sequel someday. I also read Night and was way to young to read it because I remember staying up all night to finish it, and being so disturbed by it for days afterward.

Sandra's Fiberworks said...

I'm a writer mom as well. Can't resist a follow. Kindred spirits?:))