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Kelly Corrigan’s Family Memoirs

I hope you are feeling inspired to either begin exploring and writing your family stories, or continue with renewed vigor, the stories you’ve already begun. As you know, I love memoir and have already shared with you one book suggestion, I Love Gootie. I thought I’d share another memoirist with you, Kelly Corrigan, whose three memoir all revolve around what it means to be both a child and a parent.

Corrigan’s first memoir, The Middle Place, tells the story of how both she and her charming Irish-American father, George or “Greenie,” learn of their respective cancer diagnoses and their simultaneous cancer battles. She alternates between describing her adult life as a wife and mother of two, and her own childhood and relationship with her parents growing up in Philadelphia. That time in life when parenthood and childhood overlap is what Corrigan refers to as the middle place. Her book is about the family you make and the family into which you were born, and how each makes you who you are. To read more about the book, click here.

While The Middle Place focuses on her relationship with her positive, effervescent, and charming father (the glitter in her family)Glitter and Glue, Corrigan’s 2014 memoir, focuses on her mother, the glue. Glitter and Glue describes Corrigan in her early twenties when she travels to Australia and nannies for a recent widower. In caring for children for the first time, Corrigan starts to think differently about what it means to raise children. It is an experience that causes her to reexamine her relationship with her mother, both past and present or, as Corrigan, herself, writes, “[it is] how I came to wonder who my mom was before I arrived, what motherhood had done to her, and who she had become since I left home. Parenthood is so distorting; we all deserve a second, longer look.” Read more about Glitter and Glue here.

Between writing the two memoirs about her parents, Corrigan wrote Lift, an extended letter to her two young daughters about how difficult and rewarding it is to be a mother. As the book’s Goodread description states, “Lift takes its name from hang gliding, a pursuit that requires flying directly into rough air, because turbulence saves a glider from sinking out. For Corrigan, this wisdom–that to fly requires chaotic, sometimes even violent passages–becomes a metaphor for all of life’s most meaningful endeavors, particularly the great flight that is parenting.”

I love that Lift is written in the form of a letter. In fact, this would be another wonderful way to celebrate National Family History Day. Today, how about right now, get out a piece of paper and write a precious memory, piece of advice, apology, or love letter to a family member, past, present, or future. Writing a letter is a wonderful way to infuse your writing with personal meaning, to provide focus on your true audience, and to take away the pressure of writing a bestselling memoir. A letter is just about what you have to say to the recipient and can be a powerful starting point.

As Wally Lamb, a fellow bestselling author wrote about Lift, “Kelly Corrigan’s thoughtful and beautifully rendered meditation invites readers to reflect on their own launchings and homecomings. I accepted the invitation and learned things about myself. You will, too. Isn’t that why we read?” 

Isn’t that also why we write?

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