I didn’t want to write a memoir! I tried every other form I could, yet each one fell short. Stubbornly, I kept searching for anything-but-memoir.
I knew that an academic exploration of the big topics couldn’t bring the level of transformation I was seeking. I also knew that some of my experiences would be needed to illustrate my point. But surely, I told myself, essays sprinkled with a few stories would be enough.
In the end, memoir was the only structure strong enough to carry all that is held in Big Topics at Midnight. Ironically, it wasn’t just one memoir—my ancestors showed up wanted their stories included too.
Memoir kept my exploration personal. No generalities or “people should” or finger pointing. I had to keep diving back into my own life to wake up again and again to what I saw and didn’t see, what belief I assumed was true that was, in fact, true and what wasn’t. Little details of memories gave huge information—for instance noticing that the fact we had called our black maid “Mary” and not “Mrs. Henderson” said volumes from the lips of a good little girl who ALWAYS called adults by Mr. or Mz. (Texas slang for Mrs. or Miss.)
The more I saw of my life and my assumptions, and the more feelings that got stirred up, the more I had to stop and do my own inner work to bring my actions in line with my heart and values. I had to change.
I had to learn new tools to do this demanding work. I am skilled in the methods affirmed by school and home—logic, rational thought and hard work. Those were helpful, but proved woefully inadequate for the task of waking up to the ways race, class and gender had become tangled and divisive in my own mind and in the world around me. And the old ways were definitely inadequate in helping me to access my intuitive wisdom, learning to listen to my body, the earth under my feet, creativity or Spirit. I had to re-remember the more feminine ways of knowing that I had long ago judged as weak and tried to shove to the side.
Sometimes the very things I fight are the most valuable. When will I ever learn?