Linda Joy is a legend in the memoir-writing community, both for her own writing and for her tireless efforts — as the founder and president of the National Association of Memoir Writers — to encourage fellow writers. I discovered Linda Joy through her second book, Don’t Call Me Mother,which recounts her triumph over an early life that was as oppressive as anything Charles Dickens ever imagined.
Walker Evans was one of the most celebrated photographers of the twentieth century, creating iconic images that remain instantly recognizable decades after his death. Yet he achieved success only after an erratic and often frustrating journey in which he had to overcome failure, rejection and despair.
Dr. J: I was struck by the clarity of your childhood memories in Don’t Call Me Mother. Did it take many drafts to achieve that level of detail?
LJM: Well, it was traumatic memory, so it was extremely clear. Much of what I wrote in Don’t Call Me Mothercame from my very first therapeutic experience, in which they asked us to write what’s called a “negative emotional autobiography.” You write about …
Dr. J: You said that “our inner artist or spiritual self is all about healing and understanding and compassion and forgiveness.” Could you elaborate on that?
LJM: Well, the first step in healing involves understanding. In my case, that meant finding out why my mother abandoned me. That required unravelling three generations of family secrets. . . .