Friday, May 18, 2012

Memoir-writing as cultural challenge

by Margaret Swedish

Getting back to work later today on the more-than-memoir I'm writing, chapter six, a bit of a crescendo in the narrative of the book, unlocking the secrets and shame that impacted my parents' generation, and therefore we baby-boomers, in ways that did not serve us well. It's a 'way of being' passed down from ancestors, those who left so much misery, want, and suffering behind to come to America to become something other than who they were back in the old country. And many of them suffered a whole lot when they came here - degrading work and poverty, hallmarks of early immigrant life.

Croatian ancestors
They brought with them strong identity-based cultures that became the roots of strong identity-based neighborhoods, politics, nationalism, religion, and more. But they also buried a whole lot of the suffering, shame, humiliations, exploitation, and fear that shaped them and the lives they created here. That repression left marks on their behaviors and values, on the choices they made, and, whether we descendents like it or not, that impacted who we turned out to be, the choices we, too, have made.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Writing in the cloud of our uncertainty

I haven't fed this blog for a couple of weeks. Not because I don't want to or don't have time, but because I am so overfull. Sometimes one has to wait for the words to come because what is going on is beyond words. It has to emerge, take on a sharper focus. Some of the worst writing is when it becomes words for words' sake, something we have way too much of in this culture.

When that happens, writing becomes noise. And any good writer knows these days how hard it is for good writing, for writing and art that is urgent and needed, or simply beautiful for its own sake, to find a path through the noise to our awakened consciousness.

There are people I love struggling with cancer. There are people I love struggling with old age and growing vulnerability. There are people (me, too) wrestling with profound economic insecurity in a world that seems to have little use for them.

There is my poor Wisconsin cluttered with angry hateful noise of a political culture in a state of demise,