WELCOME SUE WILLIAM SILVERMAN
SUE WILLIAM SILVERMAN
Sue William Silverman’s new memoir is The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew. Her two other memoirs are Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, which is also a Lifetime TV movie, and Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You,which won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction. Her craft book is Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. As a professional speaker, Sue has appeared on The View, Anderson Cooper 360, and more. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Just Thought You Should Know:
Sue William Silverman is also the author the memoirs Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You and Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, which was made into a Lifetime Television original movie. She also wrote Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir and the poetry collection Hieroglyphics in Neon.
Connect with Sue at these sites:
Who Is That Masked Memoirist?
After my first memoir was published, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, I received e-mails from readers who wrote things like, “Sue, I feel like I know you.” I received similar e-mails after publishing Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction. Both memoirs frequently elicit this response – I feel like I know you – even as both books are very different.
With one, readers know who I am as a girl growing up in an incestuous family. With the other, readers know me as an edgy sex addict seeking yet struggling with recovery.
Of course, I’m enormously grateful for these e-mails: I had portrayed my self – or one aspect of myself – the way they perceived me.
Now, with my new memoir, The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, readers might see me as a Pat Boone groupie. Or, as a girl who wanted to be Christian growing up – wanting to be adopted by Pat Boone – because the very Christian pop star seemed safer than my Jewish father who abused me.
Isn’t that my goal, after all: to take the flesh and blood me and craft myself into a real, breathing person on the page?
But Who Is the Real Me?
While readers of each book might think they know me, how can they know the whole me? As I move from book to book, I wear different masks searching for identity – no, identities. Plural.
Who or which persona is the real me?
As a real person I “contain multitudes” (as Walt Whitman said); we all do. Until written, however, these various facets remain murky. It is only by writing, by carefully selecting relevant details, that I myself become fully able to understand these different aspects that suggest, but do not encompass, the whole person I am.
And, dear writer of memoir, this is the point: don’t limit yourself. Any given memoir is a slice of a life, not a whole life, because every life is multi-faceted. We are daughters, sons, teachers, hobbyists, extroverts, introverts, Democrats, Republicans, feminists, spouses, guitar players, shopaholics, marathon runners, gardeners, foodies, and much more. And each facet is worthy of your writerly attention!
A Core Self
But isn’t there still an essence of me? Of you? Some core? Something—some characteristic or trait that we simply are, that we can’t escape, that will show up in everything we write?
The answer is “yes.” And “no.” Let me explain.
After publishing the first two memoirs, I wanted to write from a more ironic, even humorous perspective. This dovetailed with a desire to explore my feelings toward Pat Boone, a Christian and politically conservative man so squeaky clean he hasn’t even been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame despite the millions of records he’s sold. (In his hay-day, he often out-sold Elvis Presley.) Initially, I figured I could write about Pat Boone without mentioning my father: a sort of light-hearted, baby-boomer coming-of-age story.
That only worked in part.
After all, my feelings toward the wholesome Pat Boone arose in large part because of what happened with my father. I had to introduce that into the new book for context and motivation.
At its heart, the book revolves around three separate times I met Pat Boone and how, ultimately, he did see me in positive ways that my real father never did. In our last meeting, for example, and referring to my childhood, he said he saw me “as a flower growing up through concrete.” In other words, his image of me is that of how a father should see a daughter.
So did Pat Boone see me with my mask, or without it?
I think he saw me with a mask that revealed if not “the” whole, true me, then at least “a” true me – a “daughter,” a flower – who experiences the world through the filter of Pat Boone as an image of safety.
In the new book, additionally, there are other ways I depict myself, which are revealing masks as well: I’m a Jersey girl, a hippy, a temporary Israeli, a dissatisfied wife, and more.
What these masks have in common, in addition to their transparency, is how they form a mosaic of a self, of many different personas that comprise me. Don’t we all – over the course of a lifetime – become different “selves” looking for a common characteristic to tie them all together?
As writers of memoir we get to have our masks and wear them, too.
In short, there are masks that reveal, masks that conceal. What part of your life is a revealing mask? What underlying part of you, the whole person, does that illuminate?
ABOUT THE BOOK
Gentile reader, and you, Jews, come too. Follow Sue William Silverman, a one-woman cultural mash-up, on her exploration of identity among the mishmash of American idols and ideals that confuse most of us—or should. Pat Boone is our first stop. Now a Tea Party darling, Boone once shone as a squeaky-clean pop music icon of normality, an antidote for Silverman’s own confusing and dangerous home, where being a Jew in a Christian school wasn’t easy, and being the daughter of the Anti-Boone was unspeakable. And yet somehow Silverman found her way, a “gefilte fish swimming upstream,” and found her voice, which in this searching, bracing, hilarious, and moving book tries to make sense of that most troubling American condition: belonging, but to what?
Picking apricots on a kibbutz, tramping cross-country in a loathed Volkswagen camper, appearing in a made-for-television version of her own life: Silverman is a bobby-soxer, a baby boomer, a hippy, a lefty, and a rebel with something to say to those of us—most of us—still wondering what to make of ourselves.
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
Number of Pages: 248 pages
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