One of my best friends Nova, some years ago, handed me a book and said “Read this!” We were standing in her kitchen in Valley Village and her babies were running around. The book was a green dog-eared copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. Up until then I hadn’t much read nonfiction books. But I found Sedaris’ personal essays recounting his growing up in a large family with six siblings, outrageously funny and one book later, I was hooked.
As a reviewer on Amazon* put it, “If you like witty and humorous stories about alcoholics and dysfunctional families, you will like this.” I did, and I loved Sedaris. Since then I’ve read his six personal essay books (all of which have happened to be immediate best sellers). They’re oddball, touching on such varied topics as “taxidermied owls and Pygmies” or “the bliss of colonoscopy sedation,” and as a NPR writer Helen McAlpin wrote, the best Sedaris Essays have “surprisingly moving conclusions about the nature of love.”
I can’t say how long it was after that, but I began to think “I grew up in a big family! I have stories!” If Sedaris could make someone like myself find humor in the dysfunction and get a case of the feels, I thought that perhaps I could do the same for other peeps. Several friends I’d told about my crazy big family had already said “You should write a book,” but I’d always thought “(Yawn), who would want to read that?”
But Sedaris had inspired me. I put fingers to keyboard and began to type, recalling outrageous stuff that happened when I was a kid. But then I it hit me. My family was big and different because we’d been in a radical Christian group, a detail of my life I’d tried to distance myself from. So I hesitated. If I did write my stories, by God, I would have to include zealotry shiznit, because to not do so would not only be untruthful, but would make no sense. “Well why did your Dad have two wives living in the home?” My future reader might ask and it would just get too damned confusing.
It took long conversations with friends, Googling others’ stories, and much thought, after which I decided that for the thousands of children born into the group, the cause of greater understanding, for my siblings, and for myself, I would talk. So I’ve been writing.
*If you use this link to order Me Talk Pretty, I get money (it’ll go to charity, pay for this site, and the like). Same for David Sedaris’ books Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays, Naked, Holidays on Ice, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and When You are Engulfed in Flames.