THERAPY BY MEMOIR

    Setbacks Create Comebacks

One of my favorite genres in the book world is the Memoir or Autobiography. We all experience the contrasts of heartbreak and joy. Memoirs help us feel connected and hopeful—we aren’t alone in our pain, and pain can be overcome. I’m currently working on the life story of an Englishman who grew up in Rhodesia, lost a leg when he was eleven but went on to race cars and build race cars before he got married and had a family. And that’s just the very abbreviated version.

I’ve had the privilege of editing, rewriting and even co-writing 15 memoirs, at last count. Each one was an emotional, meaningful journey for the author and for me. William McCloud, author of Setbacks Create Comebacks, proclaims: “It matters not what happens to you; it only matters how you react to what happens to you.”

The books I discuss here were all edited by me and are currently available on Amazon. William McCloud’s book, Setbacks Create Comebacks has a fairly recent new cover.

Bill’s mother Fannie, who was dark-skinned, gave birth to five children by four different fathers. When Bill was born, Fannie told the nurse he was too white to be her child and to take him back! In a sense he was “taken back” because his tough, no-nonsense grandmother raised him and his other siblings very strictly. She could be mean: she believed in whipping, but she made him a proud survivor. Every time life knocked him down, Bill stood up and managed to laugh about his misadventures with his grandmother, his mother and his siblings; it was great fun to edit. In 1985 Bill won an Emmy for his work as a cameraman on The Benson Show, starring Robert Guillaume. It had been a long journey from a small Ohio town to Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry.

I had a wonderful experience co-writing Wendy Wong’s memoir, When the Phoenix Rises. To help me with the project, she sent me a variety of photos, newspaper articles and other mementoes from her home in Honolulu. I had a privileged view of her life growing up in poverty in Hong Kong and her struggles to make something of herself. Although her family was a loving one, they didn’t think females really needed much of an education, and when she did get a college degree, they assumed she would teach and then marry. She surprised them all with her skills in the real estate business, a talent nurtured by a very affluent Hawaiian businessman/developer known as the Hawaiian Rockefeller, who had been her lover. Wealth, success and marriage, however, don’t ensure a carefree life. Wendy has weathered various financial depressions in Hong

Kong and Hawaii, and she’s endured the heartbreak of a mentally challenged daughter. Her son, however, after graduating from Yale became  a doctor.

When the Phoenix Rises

A Survivor’s Closet by Debra Luptak and Andy Walks With Me by Ralph Heidler and his co-author wife, Twila Lopez, were both horrific memoirs of childhood abuse. It was amazing to me how these individuals survived their physical and emotional torment. Humans manage to live through some incredible challenges. My own childhood heartbreaks seemed so minor in comparison.

Ralph’s father was a psychotic tyrant, who fancied himself a preacher when he was truly an avenging devil. During the frequent beatings he suffered from his father, Ralph would have an out-of-body experience. His consciousness traveled to a garden where “Andy” walked with him. His child’s mind had given new meaning to the old hymn “I Walk in the Garden Alone.” He interpreted the line “and he walks with me and he talks with me”  to mean: “Andy walks with me.” Andy (Jesus) gave him moments of peace and joy. However, when Ralph’s mother would appear to doctor the wounds from his father’s beatings, Ralph would awaken in pain, back in his bruised and bloody body.

Andy Walks with Me

In later years, although grown and married with children, his extreme childhood caused Ralph to one day disassociate from his past and disappear from his home in Pennsylvania. During the next 20 years, totally unaware of his former life, he married twice more. Ralph was living in Hawaii when his children found him, and he discovered the missing horror of his past.

He happily connected with his children, and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Johnstown got to know Ralph and started using his book in a psychology class.

 

Debra Luptak’s strength of spirit and determination kept her alive despite the murderous attempts of her profoundly mentally ill mother, who claimed her daughter was part of the devil. She was tied up, placed in a straitjacket, burned with cigarettes, hidden in a dark closet and fed sedatives, all before the age of five. There was no magic rescue or instant healing: A Survivor’s Closet tells the gruesome years-long tale of Debra’s survival. When she was an adult, it took years of therapy, hospitals, family and friends to come to peace and self-love.  The mother of grown sons, Debra’s used her book and her talent as a speaker to help others deal with traumatic childhoods.

 

2 Comments

  1. I always appreciate your wonderful comments, Diana! You are so kind and enthusiastic about my blogs! Who would have known how our lives would turn out all those years ago in Libya eating lunch at the Mirage!

  2. Diana Becker Mullins says:

    Wow, Wow and Wow! Such amazing outlines of
    these people’s lives. Should be required reading for all psychologists,
    psychiatrists, social workers, police officers and other students of life in abusive households. God Bless them for sharing their experiences.

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