With her memoir The Tribal Knot – A Memoir of Family, Community and a Century of Change, RebeccaMcClanahan did what many of us wish we would do – “do something” with all those
family memorabilia and documents that are lurking in closets and trunks. How did she navigate the tricky waters of writing about family, of unearthing family secrets? I asked her exactly that in my interview with her, just published in the Washington Independent Review of Books:
Did you have any feeling of debt to anybody? Did you feel any constraints about what you could
share and what your family’s reaction would be?
Rebecca McClanahan: “Yes, I always have that. I always tread carefully when I
write about family – these are people’s lives. A writer can’t go in with a
sledgehammer and can’t go in with ulterior motives. I think what you need to
look for is allegiance to the story as well as you can shape it. And if you’re
a character in it, you have to shine the same bright light on yourself as you
do on every character in the book. If you’re going to indict someone, or
question something, you better be able to take that same heat yourself.
I’ve been writing and publishing things about family for
thirty years, so my family is a little immune at this point. I am also very
grateful and blessed to basically have an intact family without huge schisms in
it. My mother and father read the manuscript, and they corrected some factual
things. Reading it also let them have their emotional catharsis before the book
came out. I don’t take this lightly, but then again, I also have to tell my
story in the best way that I can.”
Read more here.
Rebecca is a great teacher (anyone at our Kenyon Writers Workshop can attest to that!) and on Saturday, September 7, she will be leading an all-day workshop on “Making Their StoriesYour Own: Shaping the Raw Material of Family History” (for writers of all genres) at the Grailville Retreat and
Program Center, Loveland, Ohio.