I’ve been following the James Frey controversy about his memoir entitled A Million Little Pieces particularly because much of Building the Christian Family You Never Had falls under the memoir genre. I ached over the words in that book, double-checking accuracy. If someone disagreed strongly, I reconsidered keeping the memory in the book. But what compelled me to tell my story, even more than my writer desire to put to paper what had happened, was Jesus’ constant prompting.
I wrote that book for one reason: redemption.
I grew up in a difficult home. But God chose to stoop low to the earth and choose me. He healed me. He set my feet on a rock and put a song of redemption on my lips. I hope and pray that aspect of God’s redemption floods the pages of that book.
Today I came across an article in the January 17 issue of Publisher’s Weekly. The piece, entitled, “Why James Frey Doesn’t Get it” by Heather King has some well-stated points. The paragraph that made me want to stand up and cheer was this:
“It’s every writer’s sacred honor to “get it right,” but perhaps the burden
falls heaviest on the memoirist. As a memoirist, it seems to me, something has
to have happened to you that you’re burning to tell. You’ve undergone some kind
of transformation that matters not because it says something about you, but
because it says something about the world; because it touches on the mysteries
of suffering and meaning. There may be great leeway in being faithful to this
emotional truth, but you have to have an emotional truth to begin with. The
details you remember, your stance towards the people you meet, your
interpretation of your experiences: all have to spring from this deeper level;
this vision you carry around like a secret; the yearning to get it right that
eventually drives everything you think, say, do. You have to have some kind of
love for the world, with all its terrible suffering; you have to be willing to
cut off your writing hand rather than betray by a word what it’s taught you. The
problem is that it doesn’t seem to have taught James Frey much of anything,
which is why A Million Little Pieces rings false, on both levels, from start to
It’s redemption that builds a beautiful memoir, not bragging or bravado. And I pray that comes out as folks read the book. A changed life. Wrought by God.