I See You: The Radical Power of Recognition in Memoir
11 AM PDT | 12 PM MDT | 1 PM CDT | 2 PM EDT
I’m so pleased to have as our May Member guest Gina Frangello. I was so thrilled to read her book Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason—a true work of magic, heart, and soul, and most of all, courage. The world’s response to Gina’s was strong—from high praise to criticism for writing a memoir with confessions of infidelity and candid sexuality. She also explores such topics such as caretaking parents and children and fighting breast cancer, all in a creative structure with unusual form. I hope you get a chance to read her book before this event. We’re so lucky to have Gina speak with us and inspire us in our own work!
This talk will speak to the fact that when writing memoir, our goal should not be for the reader to think, “I understand this writer,” but rather that the reader will feel understood. This philosophy underscores the necessity of digging deep in memoir, of saying the “unsayable” things that make us each isolated by shame, and of being willing to expose oneself as flawed and at times “ugly,” rather than as an inspirational figure or wise guru as the publishing industry often pushes women to do.
Writers can change the industry from one that makes readers feel lesser than or–at best–aspirational–to one that shows our full complex humanity by refusing to play along with work that paints superficial or utopian portraits of women, people of color, those with disabilities, and those in queer communities, intended to “educate” or “inspire.”
Our work does not need to cater to dominant gazes; rather, our imperative is to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed, and writing must continue shattering taboos to achieve this.
With an eye towards her experiences in the aftermath of publishing her memoir, Gina will engage with why it is important to challenge our self-censorship and desire to be loved, in favor of allowing our readers to understand they are not alone in their imperfections, and that we have value beyond our mistakes.
You will be inspired to:
- Take chances with your voice, style, and structure.
- Think of new ways to shape your story—and your role in it.
- Examine the layers of your truth—can you go deeper and further in your explorations as you write.
- Challenge what you see as acceptable in your writing—perhaps you can push your boundaries and experiment with your writing in new ways.
Gina Frangello’s fifth book, the memoir Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason (Counterpoint), has been selected as a New York Times Editor’s Choice, received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and BookPage, and has been included on numerous “Best of 2021” lists including at Lithub, BookPage, and The Chicago Review of Books. She is also the author of four books of fiction, including A Life in Men (Algonquin), which is currently under development by Charlize Theron’s production company, Denver & Delilah, and Every Kind of Wanting (Counterpoint), which was included on several “Best of 2016” lists, including at Chicago Magazine’s and The Chicago Review of Books. Now a lead editor at Row House Publishing, Gina also brings more than two decades of experience as an editor, having founded both the independent press Other Voices Books and the fiction section of the popular online literary community The Nervous Breakdown. She has also served as the Sunday editor for The Rumpus, the faculty editor for both TriQuarterly Online and The Coachella Review, and the Creative Nonfiction Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her short fiction, essays, book reviews, and journalism have been published in such venues as Salon, the LA Times, Ploughshares, the Boston Globe, BuzzFeed, Dame, and in many other magazines and anthologies, and her column, “Not the Norm,” runs on the Psychology Today blog. She runs Circe Consulting, a full-service company for writers, with the writer Emily Rapp Black, and can be found at www.ginafrangello.org.