Can I write it? Should I? #SOL19

Last night we were cleaning out the guest room, which quadruples as the craft room, my husband’s closet, and the ‘I don’t know where to put this crap’ room.

There, among the “crapus-buildus-upus” as my father likes to call it, was a huge pile of the Belle View Voice, the monthly newsletter my former condo association publishes. In 2007, I started writing a section in it called the ‘Belle View Mini Tales’.  Each month, I’d write a slice of life story before I knew what a slice was.  I read a few from the stack.

The story of the time my fumbling, lovable dog and I visited three different homes  before I realized she had fleas.

The story of the time my pregnant friend pointed out the ‘cutie’ at the pool who turned out to be kid in a Spiderman bathing suit.

And my coda, my swan song, the good-bye I wrote when we moved out of the neighborhood.

Reading these articles that spanned 8 years, I realized something.  They sound like me. They’re from a very different time in my life, but they sound like me.

But now, I can’t quite decide if that’s good or not.  I like that my voice feels authentic,  that my girls will read about their young single mama someday.  But there are so many stories I’m not telling when I only write slices.

I’m not telling the story of the American girl whose mom is deported.

I’m not telling the story of the boy who is feared because of the color of his skin.

I’m not telling the story of the girl who lives in the back of a car because her mother has a drug problem and can’t pay rent.

As a writer, can I write the pain from someone else’s life?  And if I can, should I?

I want these children represented because their situations are real even if they are not.  But, is it my place to tell their stories or would I be replacing someone else’s voice with my own from the land of privilege?


5 thoughts on “Can I write it? Should I? #SOL19

  1. You’re asking great questions. I want to tell stories of former students, but I know those stories aren’t mine to tell.

    BTW: Everyone has that room that quadruples as something else, don’t they!?!?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, such important questions. But I think we don’t wait for the homeless child to write their story. If you write from your own understanding, as best as you can, with compassion (I know you would), can’t we give it a go?
    I do know this is a big topic in literature and in popular culture (film casting, for example.). I realize its not so simple. What do others think?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is such a difficult question. I think it all depends on how you tell the story of another person whose situation is unlike your own, and what kind of writing it is. Are there others closer to your students’ situation who can tell their stories? Can you help them write/tell their stories? Journalists write other people’s stories all the time, but that is not the same kind of writing as a personal essay, or fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Powerful questions. I think you have to make your own way with these; if you can give others a voice, do so. But don’t quench your own.

    Gotta say I love your dad’s phrase, “crapus-buildus-upus”!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. These are important questions, and there has been some really great writing about the question of writing other people’s stories. I hope you find an answer that works for you. I also think it’s so great that your voice sounds like you. It’s hard to write like ourselves, and it ‘s really wonderful that you’ve already found that style on the page.

    Liked by 1 person

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