Home is where the Doilies Live: Revising Portraits of Public Housing


I read recently that home is where our stories begin. It’s where we’re rooted.  Home grounds us in the present and gives us a history to remember.

I’ve been fascinated for years by the notion of place and the impact it has on who we become and have struggled since last summer regarding the scope of spaces to write about in my memoir—with whether my book should end when Daddy died in 1981 or continue into my adulthood, addressing my struggle with bipolar disorder (multiple stays in psychiatric hospitals), and, perhaps even, exploring the places I’ve lived more recently—like Vietnam and Haiti.

It seems inevitable that current struggles with telling my story would force me to readdress scope, since events that have happened more recently are easier to remember and write about.  And it seems important to remind current readers, many of whom weren’t around last year, that one of the places I’ve considered writing about in this book (even if only by way of preface) was the government housing I lived in twice as an adult.  I’ve wondered how that government-provided place has figured in mapping my current internal landscape, especially since my father’s involvement in organized crime made me, as a child, consider government an enemy to our family’s domestic well-being.  (Remember FBI agents, when they raided our house, literally broke down the front door, more often than not.)

One such government-subsidized complex was Briarwood, where I lived from 2001 till 2005–a place I began writing about last summer.  Below is a scene I wrote at this time last year and want to revisit in the context I outline here.  The question is whether my memoir should include these kinds of stories (maybe by way of preface or postscript) or whether these belong in an entirely separate book, given that these places, both defy the stereotype many have of public housing, and may have reimagined my own internal notion of government as bad guy.

The mostly elderly and disabled residents of Briarwood, specifically, were an easy group to get along with. No crime, no noise—not even any walker or wheelchair races in the hallways. If anything it was too quiet—a place where the biggest event of the day was the arrival of the mail carrier, who was greeted 6 mornings a week like a cancer-conquering hero—the bearer of tidings from the outside world. Clearly, this was not a demographic that emailed much or got their news, medical or otherwise, via smart phone—not a tweeting, googling kind of group, for the most part.

However, the most note-worthy events to happen at Briarwood occurred not near the lobby’s mail boxes, but in the second floor craft room—a gathering place for the ladies of building A, where I lived.

These “craft rooms” were more like little libraries with couches, a few comfortable and very 80s-era blue chairs, an artificial flower or two, and, yes, an equally-80s-styled book-case that housed at least 6 dozen romance novels and a few Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies—not to mention a good 30 games and close to 50 jig-saw puzzles—all with pieces missing, of course—because what’s a puzzle without a few holes in the Eifel Tower—Monet’s “Water Lilies” minus a bloom or two?

In Building A elderly ladies gathered in the craft room most afternoons—gossiping, reading, gossiping some more. Some slept from time to time. A few even snored. Mind you, everyone assembled there was born before the Hoover administration—except for me, of course, a child of the Kennedy era. (Yes, I know—generation gap—big time.)

Wigs were all the rage in the craft room. And everyone, besides me in my sweatpants, dressed up. One woman named Evelyn—92-years-old when I moved into the complex—always wore a wig. And she was the best dressed of the group—nicely-styled polyester dresses in navy or gray, with crisp white collars and big brass buttons—usually a fake patent leather belt around the waist.

Evelyn engaged in the only remotely craft-like activity ever done in the history of Briarwood craft rooms. Evelyn crocheted. And she ever only made one thing—over and over. She had to have produced hundreds, even thousands, of them while I lived there. Evelyn made doilies. Usually they were white. Sometimes they were lavender or baby blue, some coaster-sized, others larger.

And like any good crocheter over the age of eighty, Evelyn liked to give her creations away. Nothing honored her more than if, at the end of a snowy afternoon in February, when she said, “Kathy, would you like to take this home for your coffee table?” I responded in the reluctant affirmative—but only after declaring I didn’t dare take another. When I suggested she might like to give that day’s doily to our friend Bea, Evelyn would insist, “Oh but you need a set, dear, especially when you serve sweet tea.”

Bottom line—Evelyn may have doilied me to death, but believe you me, every gray-haired lady in Building A was as well-doilied as me. When I finally moved from Briarwood in 2005, I found more coaster-sized, crocheted circles and almost circles (as Evelyn aged) shoved in underwear drawers and kitchen cabinets than any self-respecting resident of government housing ought to own.

But our dear friend Bea, on whom I tried to foist doilies from time to time—also frequented the craft room. Bea, tall and painfully thin, had to have been at least 5’ 9” before osteoporosis and old age shrunk and hunched her to a mere 5’ 6”, and she couldn’t have weighed more than 70 pounds fully dressed and soaking wet.

Bea, like Evelyn, had obviously, at one time, been a stunningly beautiful woman, a fact betrayed by facial features that shown through despite her age—high cheek bones and big, blue eyes that still twinkled when she smiled.

Bea didn’t wear a wig, and for a woman well into her 90s she had a head of gorgeous, light brown curls. True her hair was largely gray, but she retained enough of the brown to surprise you, since otherwise she looked so old and borderline antique.

Bea was also one of the ladies who slept most afternoons, waking herself up every few minutes with her own overly sized snores.

But then again, Bea never stayed more than 30 minutes at a time, as when nicotine called at least twice an hour, she struggled to her feet from the over-stuffed chair, shuffled her pink-slippered feet across the industrial blue carpet, and disappeared into her apartment several doors down, only to reemerge a few minutes later having snuck a cigarette or two, still insisting upon her return that she had to use the rest room or make a phone call. Never mind she smelled like smoke over the tic-tac she sucked and the Avon she had sprayed post-puff.

But what’s the point of these craft room portraits? Why share these aging lady stories?

The point is this—

These elderly ladies utterly obliterate the image most folks have of government-subsidized housing. These were not crack heads with jeans belted around their knees or welfare moms, screaming, runny-nosed toddlers on either hip. These were not delinquent teens smoking pot in parking lots or dangling younger siblings from balconies.

These ladies were what 90% of the residents at Briarwood were like—kind, considerate, crocheting grandmas who cared about me and the other neighbors they encountered in the craft room.

So, if home is where ones story begins, the question remains whether places like Briarwood should figure in the memoir I write, maybe even by way of preface.  I managed to create a space for myself there–despite the stereotype of public housing.  Briarwood proved to be a place more comforting than chaotic, a place with more crafters than crack heads, a place with ladies who loved me and asked nothing more than to lavish their crochet-crazed kindnesses on me.

Home may be where the heart is, but, inevitably, government housing, at least in this instance, is where the doilies lived as well.

Can a doily-giving government be all bad?   How might this image of government as provider of home, rather than disruptor of domestic peace, have redefined or even healed my inner child’s notion that government embodies evil?  Am I right that stories like these belong in a book separate from my memoir entirely?  How has home figured in your life story.

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93 thoughts on “Home is where the Doilies Live: Revising Portraits of Public Housing

  1. Kathy, it does seem a different world than the bio I have been reading. I’m torn. If your story was to focus on home, where ever it is and ‘what’ ever it is I would say it should all be together. And it would be very interesting, knowing what you have shared so far, all of the different places that have been ‘home’ vs. places you have only ‘lived’.

    But the bulk of your story so far has had a very distinct flow, character. That being, your father. If it was to be included it would seem you would have a huge story about your dad/your life. Then a huge story about your life without your dad. Which, really, is what biographies are about. Your life. (I really didn’t need to point that out, I know. :)

    I loved your writing above about your government housing experience. And it would be interesting to see how you tie that in to your story about your dad. What would he think? How would he feel about this?

    Fortunately, which ever way you decide to go with it, I look forward to reading it.

    (And all of that to say if I actually had a vote I think it would be 2 different books. That way you have to write more. So we can read more.)

    • Oh, I think I’ve been unclear. I don’t mean that my memoir would be focused on “home.” I only mean that I would carry the story further toward the present or (more likely)still end the book with my father death and include something about this world by way of preface or postscript. I’m not at all convinced it’s a good idea, but there is actually so much more story to tell that I wanted current readers to be aware of. I suspect I need to write several books. Does that make sense?

      • Butting in here: I suddenly saw a re-focusing in your memoir because of the third sentence in Chatter’s comment. About home. Because you tell us stories about home over and over–dad, Haiti, Vietnam, Lexington, Sara, psych hospitals, and gov’t housing. !!

        Father is huge in your head, but I see YOU in the memoir if your focus were home. In one book. No need to compartmentalize the eras because they’re all related.

        Me too–whatever you do, keep writing and sharing.

        Sorry, a little inarticulate this a.m.

      • You’re never inarticulate, Laurel! It might be a way to handle the whole thing in one shot. Don’t know that I will, but I’ve thought about it. Great to hear from you, my friend!

  2. I think home is where and whom-ever evokes a sense of safeness and security in us. Loved the background and I think it should be woven into your story … for it IS your story.

    Hugs
    MJ

  3. Kathryn, I love this piece! I was right there in the room with you and the wig-wearing ladies of Building A. You create marvelous imagery and touch the reader with your sensitive outlook and expression. Parts of this made me feel like crying….when you talk about their pride in appearance and excitement in sharing their creations, and other parts had me grinning all the way through….the doilie gifting to you and your thoughts on it as the young one in the group. You brought me back to a time in my life when I lived up north in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, which was wooded and secluded, and quilted with the church ladies up there. The words you choose take us gently, sweetly, AND with kind humor into another world. Whether you choose to combine these memories or not, your writing is profound and deeply moving. Love and blessings to you and Sara. xoxo Julia

    • I’m delighted that these portraits entertained you, Julia. This was terribly fun to write. It’s still ironic to me how much these ladies delighted me. They truly did take enormous pride in their appearance and in what they created. They were dear.

      Fascinating that you quilted with the church ladies. I bet that was an interesting world. I’m curious to know how they might have differed from other folks you’ve known. I can imagine a number of possibilities.

      Great to hear from you today, my friend. Hugs to you, my friend.

  4. I enjoy all your stories and I think they all belong together because they are what ultimately makes you ..well..you. Thanks for the introduction to the ladies of building A. They sound like such characters :)

  5. I think this would make a great addition to your memoir. So much of what you’re writing about paints the government as being a bunch of bullies (what with kicking down doors), so this provides some nice balance.

    I know a retirement home isn’t the same as the public housing you write about here, but my 93 y/o grandmother is in one now, and I’ve heard stories about how all the elderly folks dress up in their very finest clothes when they go down to the dining hall – seven days a week. That’s so hard for me to fathom.

    • I suppose it has something to do with the era in which these folks were raised. Maybe there was just more formality back then. No, these worlds are not the same, but these folks would be generationally similar, so it’s interesting to note that these qualities may have transcended class. Thanks so much for adding your perspective. I wonder about including this as postscript. Any thoughts on that specifically–as opposed to preface?

  6. Honestly, I could see it either way. It depends on your focus. What story do you want to tell? I could even see you doing a series of books, Your Dad, Life in the Mental institution, Travel, and Reconciliation with all these seemingly disparate experiences. Or you could do a collection of essays, like the one above. Vignettes of your experiences like snapshots. So many possibilities.
    I have a folder for book ideas and occasionally I’ll write a little bit on one of them. I’ll also occasionally scrounge them for snippets to add to whatever I’m working on at the moment. That way I don’t feel like they’re “lost” when I get involved with a project that captures the whole of my attention. They’re always ready for me to get back to them.
    Whatever you choose, I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading!

    • Love your folder idea, Lisa. I have that sort of thing in my head with a few in my journal. I also really like the idea of having several projects going at once, so I can move back and forth, depending on which one inspires me at the moment. I think that’s a smart way to work. And I’m inclined to, also, to think there are a number of books here–exactly as you have outlined–though the collection of essays might be fun, as well. I’m currently reading David Sedaris–”Dress your Family in Cordoroy and Denim”–who does just that, I suppose. Thanks SOOOOOO much for your feedback. I truly appreciate your input.

  7. Kathy, whatever you do, I think it’s true that you have several books in you and – for selfish reasons – that’s pretty darn exciting! As someone who’s a huge government/public policy dork, I find that this does add an interesting complication to your earlier government trauma and resulting perspectives.

    • This makes me think a postscript might be in order–a way to point toward other books to come–as, I agree, that I have a number of books to write. Can’t tell you how GREAT it is to hear from you today. I’ve missed you, my dear! (And I didn’t know you were a public policy dork! I love that!)

  8. Wonderful imagery! I could see this as a postscript in your book. Like the others, I think you probably have quite a few books swirling around in your creative head!
    PS- Did you dazzle the ladies in the craftroom with your own art?

    • What a great question, Sprinkles–one that never occurred to me! Isn’t that kind of strange? However, I don’t think I ever really shared much of my art with them. It isn’t the sort of thing that would have interested them–decidedly not their style.

      I also have to add that I’m very much leaning toward the postscript idea. As I said to Rose, it would allow readers to anticipate other books to come. Don’t you think it could function that way?

      At any rate, thanks so much for weighing in. Love hearing your feedback! Hugs to you!

  9. Fascinating post! I think two different books, Kath. Your writing was so visceral that I could almost smell the home. (Or did you just remind me of the Hospitality House we stayed at last week that smelled faintly of urine?) I like how you busted any of our habitual ideas of who lives in this kind of housing. I have a good friend who is living is similar housing now. She doesn’t fit in any category. It’s always good when we can see beyond labels.

    • Yes, yes, like you, I love to disrupt stereotypes–maybe because I find myself not fitting well into any one category very well. I agree that I have more than one book here–maybe all things considered–3 or 4 even.

      So happy this post, and my writing in general, feels “visceral” to you. I love that idea, actually. Thank you! However, that urine smell–not so pleasant, I suppose. I never smelled anything like that at Briarwood, fortunately.

      Have a great deay, my friend. Love hearing from you, and hope Barry is healing well. My best to him!

  10. Hi! :) My computer won’t let me respond to your response. I need to stop responding to people at 5 a.m. because “I” don’t make sense. That’s my excuse anyway. I do get where you’re coming from. I think how ever you end up doing this, it will be exceptional. I can’t wait for it.

    • Ha, 5am is when I went back to bed having been awake for several hours in the night, so I can relate. So happy to hear you want to read either way. Can you sleep a little later tomorrow? I hope so!

      • :) No, I get up at 445 on work days so I can ride my bike on a trainer for an hour before work every day. If I don’t…I feel like I’m not prepared. I do want to read. I’ll be curious, though, to now see how you end up doing this.

      • Ha, I ride my stationary bike every morning, as well. In fact, going back to bed at 5 and waking up again closer to 9, got my entire day off to strange start. By the time I finished my ride, it was nearly 11am. Felt like I had lost half the day. If I don’t get my workout in, its not good. Actually, I have a way to prop my laptop up so I can read and ride at the same time. Early morning multi-tasking!

      • OMGolly! You have not ever seen my bike desk have you??? We built a desk to go over my bike so I am at my computer on my bike every day, Usually twice a day!!!

      • NO! I have not seen. Have you posted any photos? I used to have a makeshift desk that I assembled out of cement blocks and a board, but Sara vetoed that option when we got together, as it was UGLY! Imagine! Now my syestem doesn’t work nearly as well, but I’m determined. I can’t stand to workout hard and not do something to distract myself!

      • I hear you! When I started riding in the house I made a commitment to never read unless I was on the bike. I kept it. And this was part of my process of going from nearly 240 lbs down to less than 160. Though now I’m a bit heavier. I will look and see if I have pictures posted of my desk. I’m almost sure I did a post about it. I will check. I’m with you. I can’t pedal away or run if my brain is not occupied along with the body!

      • Good for you with the weight loss! That’s terrific. My weight has yo-yo-ed for years, but I try to workout so I can eat more of what I enjoy. I’m short so weight has ALWAYS been an issue for me.

      • I hear ya’ sister! I’ve been fluffy butt struggler for years. Still struggle with it. But I need to keep it in check. I hate to send you to a post to read about it. But I’m gonna! Just because it sounds like you can totally relate. It was a wonderful time in my life, this change. And it is still a struggle so seeing this every once in awhile helps. http://bikecolleenbrown.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/black-belt-path-to-life/

        Sorry for the “self promoting” in your comments!

      • Heck, no need to apologize. Thanks so much for directing me to that post. God, can I relate. I hope others will read it, as well. Brilliantly moving and inspiring, my friend! You’re right–without hard work, we can’t enjoy reward!

      • Thanks Kathy. I really appreciate the read and feed back. I think we have the same philosophies regarding hard work! and many about life!

  11. I lean towards the two-different-books attitude, as well. You have a huge amount to cover here, and it really relates to two different things. Your father’s life of crime and your own struggles with bipolar. Let me look at both arguments by way of musing.

    Argument 1: One book with both stories

    There is some new study that children who have experienced abuse are x number of times more likely to grow up and suffer from mental illness. You weren’t abused per se, but the trauma of seeing your Dad practically kidnapped by the FBI and the subsequent changes in your life could have had a similar impact. Moreover, there was clearly a part of your Dad’s personality that demonstrated elements of bipolar. I know your Aunt Pearl was the certified family-member-with-mental-illness, but there’s not a rule that says “one per generation only”. The risk taking behaviors, the organized crime thing. Those could be signs of an undiagnosed mental illness that foreshadows your own.

    Additionally, the two stories, your own struggles to find a safe haven as an adult and your memories of turmoil in your childhood, those are clearly interconnected. People are going to want to know about your experiences after reading this whole book from your point of view.

    However…

    Argument 2: Two books

    Essentially, your father’s story is the story of your coming of age from my perspective as a writer. I think you said you were 19 when he died? You have a natural story arc that can begin with your childhood memories and progress through his death, ending with what that death signified for you as an adult (barely) and closing a chapter in your own life. If your struggles with bipolar had really begun by then, you can mention them without highlighting them and then use them to continue your story as you grow up. That would free you to concentrate on your perceptions of your father as a child and young woman, where including yourself as a full fledged grown up would force you to evaluate him from the perspective of who you are after your own long rocky road.

    That’s what I think, anyhoo.

    • I agree with the “more than one book” position. I understand the former might be an option, but not necessarily a good one, perhaps. The matter of arc is fairly important. It would be different if I hadn’t had so much happen in my life. There are a number of those arcs to cover–thus, several books, I hope! Thanks so much for the feedback. You have said all of this SO well. I appreciate your weighing in, Jessie!

  12. I think this could actually be a very successful second book. I love how doilies captured the generosity and peace of this place. I don’t know why but every time I see doilies or even think about them I. feel peace. Somehow this particular story resonates with me. The second book could be called something like Daddy’s Legacy: The After Math.

    • LOVE it, Chris! I kind of feel the same way about doilies and peace. Maybe because I associate them with my grandmother, or something. Isn’t that funny? I agree about the second book, as well. Great title suggestion. Thanks so much. Great to hear from you today!

  13. I loved your description of the home. I had a lovely aunt ( Mavis) who crocheted all her life. I have a collection of doilies and handkerchiefs that she did and I love them because they remind me of her.
    You don’t have to write just one book you know.

    • Yes, I know. I very much hope I will write several–maybe even lots. Interesting to hear you had an aunt hwo also crocheted doilies. It’s important to me to keep things made by people I love. Great to hear from you today!

  14. Kathy – You pose a good ponderment: “I’ve wondered how that government-provided place has figured in mapping my current internal landscape…”

    My opinion is that you should save it for it’s own book. As a matter of fact, this sentence on the back of a book jacket (The Ladies of Briarwood) would pique my curiosity:

    “The most note-worthy events to happen at Briarwood occurred not near the lobby’s mail boxes, but in the second floor craft room—a gathering place for the ladies of building A, where wigs were all the rage.”

    • So happy to hear you enjoyed this story, Laurie. I’m very much inclined to save it for a separate book, as well. Maybe I could allude to these stories in a postscript to pique reader interest. Love the idea of using that quote on the book jacket! Great idea, my friend. Hope your writing goes well this week!

      • Kathy – I ran away from home today to write uninterrupted. I hid up at George Williams College on William’s Bay in Lake Geneva, WI. After all, a girl’s gotta do, what a girl’s gotta do. (I imagine you may read about it in an up-and-coming post).

  15. I love this post! Your characterization of each of the women captivates me. I could see an entire book written about this place and the stories of the women entertwining and diverging. Would this fit as part of your memoir? Possibly. Maybe as a postscript of where life took you after your father’s death. (Or a prelude to the book, too, would work.) But this has such a different “flavor” to it that it could stand on its own as a different book. Besides, I want to know these women’s stories and the role the government played in their lives and the various narratives that quilt their lives together…and your role in this vignette. Ahhh…. there are so many possibilities. You are a damn good writer!

    • Oh, thank you so much! I’m inclined to agree that a separate book is called for. These ladies really do deserve a book of their own, don’t they? I’m simply tickled to death you enjoy my writing, Cecelia! Thank you for your comment. It’s so great to hear from you today!

  16. I would caution you about trying to do too much in one book. I think you probably have plenty to fill a story about your childhood with your mother and father.

    The other housing experiences and places you’ve live could be a whole separate book/s. It sounds fascinating. What happened to you that you lived there? The whole journey to recovery if one was involved. . .

    If you feel more ready to write about that, perhaps you should.

    You are an excellent writer. I look forward to reading all of it.

    • Yes, yes, there was a journey to recovery, for sure. I lived in those places twice, as my bipolar illness prevented me from working. Howwever, after I left there in 2005, I was able to buy my own home in late summer 2006–just before Sara and I got together. I do have so many stories to tell. Don’t know if this woul be a separate book from the one about my illness, but likely it would be. It’s all just too much, I suspect. So happy you like my writing, Christine! Thanks for reading and weighing in!

  17. For what it’s worth (highly likely nothing) I think your temporary stay in government housing is separate from your memoir about your dad and how his lifestyle left a permanent scar on your childhood that impacted your mental wellbeing. I think this second story deserves to be told. It could be a springboard for a whole other tale about how those ladies got there. You got out because you were young and were able to some degree heal. What became of them or people like them? Is their fate what could happen to others that are partner-less with little or no family? It’s an interesting topic. My grandmother was a rabid crochet-er. I have one of her afghan throws made from leftover scraps of yarn. I’ve had it almost as long as I’ve resided out here and I imagine it will get chucked when I go.

  18. I like this story , we have government housing here and it is so bad we even have a comedy show called Houso’s about the ‘type’ of people living in those places. Its nice to hear a different point of view ..
    I have a suggestion to one of your questions – maybe you could split the memoir into 2 parts , the first being your early years with your Dad and the second your struggles and triumphs as an adult.
    What ever you decide I’m looking forward to reading ! Have a great week
    Xx Kel

      • It is a television series but somehow I don’t think you would be able to understand it – remember my bogan boat vid ? Take that accent x 10 and that is how these people talk !! ( In real life and on the show lol ). If I can track it down on the net I will send you a link anyway :) Xx

  19. Kathy,

    I went searching for your blog this morning, for I know I had seen the by line, yet had passed on it at time to pursue other ventures.

    I have not read all the comments, and I am not a “writer” that being said, most here seem to be of the opinion of two separate book or more.

    I like Jessie’s take on the process and I think you have much going on here. Yes one effects the other but how and when is another story.

    Is the memoir about your father or about your experience of your father ties with the mob?

    I loved the story, and I was around the “old” ladies, my grandmothers enough to have experienced just those events. Public/government housing is an experience I have only had as an outsider, but very aware of.

    Question: as writers, is not better to focus on one theme/story at a time, yet one theme may lead to another in someway but does it fit there and then, or it is another story or can it be expanded for a later story?

    • Okay–I responded to your comment and then accidently erased it.

      At any rate, I think your question is a good one. I think it’s optimal to be able to focus exclusively on one project at a time, but When I find myself stuck in relation to that one, sometimes I try to change gears and look at something else, hoping it will get me over the block. I agree that these are two separate books. However, looking again at the Briarwood material has heled me think about my dad’s story in a new way.

      Optimally, I don’t want to shift my focus to this other project completely. I’m almost trying to trick my mind into looking at the mob narrative from a new perspective by looking away at the Briarwood stuff. It’s like stepping away from any creative project to help yourself come back to it in a fresh way. I don’t know if that makes sense at all.

      Fabulous question, Jeff! Thank you SOOOOOOOO much for asking it. It has got me thinking. Love it!

      Hope you have a lovely Tuesday, my friend!

  20. I’m not sure about using it in the memoir, but it does make the argument of maybe splitting up the memoir into two parts.

    All that aside, it is a beautifully written and engaging piece. I am smitten with it.

    • Oh, Chrissy, love that you are “smitten.” I’m pretty convinced by now that these belong in two separate books, but it helped me to look again at the Briarwood material. I’m hoping it will allow me to reapproach my dad’s story with/from a fresh perspective. Great to hear from you, my friend!

  21. You have *so much* you could write about, so many fascinating aspects of your life, it will be hard to narrow the focus.
    I’ve noticed, though, in a couple of the memoirs I’ve read this summer, that one style is to tell the story by theme instead of in chronological order. I found these books more entertaining, and also more indicative of the way my bipolar brain works. I could very much see part of this post set alongside the Government as Enemy stories–sort of an all-inclusive take on your relationship with the Feds.
    Just a thought.

  22. Loved this write-up Kathy, very nicely done indeed. I felt transported straight into that world…it reminded me of a Doris Lessing book I read sometime last year.

  23. While I don’t know how you weave it all together, it seems to me that who you are now and how you got there should fit in somewhere in your memoir. Wish I knew more about the process of writing a book. But I think you’re doing the right thing. Just keep writing everything that’s important to you. Eventually, all the right pieces will come together, right?

  24. Kathy, it sounds to me like you have multiple stories to tell, and once you write them all down, you may find a way to weave them together into one memoir. Or, it may make more sense to make them separate books. That you lived in government housing given your upbringing is fascinating.

    • If there’s one single thing that’s consistently true about me, it’s that my life has been unexpected and even strange, at times. Wonder what that says about me? Yikes! LOL Thanks for reading, Andra.

  25. Sista, I think you’ve lived so much in one life that there’s just no way to fit it all into one book! Seriously! You are a memoir gold mine, my friend. You have so many stories to tell.

  26. I love this piece, and remember your early post on government housing and loved that one too. There is more You in these stories than those of your childhood, but that would stand to reason (especially knowing your memory of childhood is spotty and that you’re concentrating on your father’s mob connection). I will read whatever you write. That said, I always enjoy more the stories that are more You, perhaps because your voice comes across more in those.

    That was probably confusing. Sorry. I know what I want to say. Just not sure how to say it.

    • Actually, I think you’re very clear, and I understand what you mean. It’s a fascinating observation, and one I hadn’t even thought of much before. But it makes lots of sense that I would sound more like myself when writing about more recent events. Thanks for offering that insight, my friend. Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend!

  27. Hi Kathy! I really enjoyed this piece (even more so than the electrifying drama pieces from your childhood). I don’t think there is space for both the mafia childhood and the government housing vignettes to co-exist in one book, though. To me, as a reader, the scope would seem just too great (and a little overwhelming, to be honest). Is it possible to do two separate memoirs, one focusing on the earlier years and one focusing on the later years (i.e. bipolar disorder, government housing, Vietnam, Haiti, etc.) <— Even that sounds like too much for one book! :)

    I hope you're keeping well, my friend. Hugs to you and Sara!

    • I SOOOO agree with you about scope. The more I looked at the government housing stuff, I realize it’s too much for one life, let alone one book. LOL Thanks for your feedback.

      Great to hear from you. I can only imagine how busy your summer must be about now. Hope you and Marty have a wonderful weekend on the waterfront. Hugs to you, as well!

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