Should I Reveal Family Secrets?

I recently read a friend’s blog post about whether it’s right to reveal your parents flaws in a memoir. I thought about that for awhile.

In my memoir, A Bittersweet Goodnight, I had a lot to say about my parents and their lack of parenting skills. I didn’t put those words on the page without angst and anguish. But I had to in order to resolve my own feelings about my upbringing at this late stage of my life. I came to realize that I stored way too many unpleasant memories in a deep dark corner. Writing them down helped me to set myself on a happier path.

My parents both passed away many years ago. Even though I never had a close relationship with either of them, they did teach me respect for others. I never could have written this book if either of them had still been alive and able to read my writing. But I often smell cigarette smoke for no reason, which tells me that my stepmother, June, is on board with my story that revolves around her role in my life.

I don’t believe the choice is a matter of right or wrong. For me it’s what felt sincere for me in my life. Much of the feedback I’ve gotten from readers tells me that many people have had similar life experiences and were grateful to know they had company in that regard. We don’t have to reveal every single family secret in a memoir, choose what is meaningful to the storyline, put an appropriate spin on the rest or leave it out altogether. The choice belongs to the author.

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