Julie Myerson, British mom and writer, was lambasted for writing about her drug addicted teen in her recent book The Lost Child: A Mother’s Story. Her son called his mother “obscene” for “exploiting and exaggerating” his troubles even though he liked an early draft showed to him and let her use some of his poems. The book has just come out in the U.S. and Myerson is awaiting a possible backlash here. Or perhaps Americans are more used to exposes on drug abuse and tell-all stories in both books and in the media. Myerson states, for one, that this is her story and the way she saw it and, second, she saw a need in the U.K. to support other parents dealing with their childrens’ drug abuse, to let them know they aren’t alone. U.S. authors David Scheff (Beautiful Boy) and Michael Greenberg (Hurry Down Sunshine) have recently written about their children (drug abuse, mental illness, respectively) to popular acclaim. Read the Amazon reviews of these books to see many thankful responses of others dealing with loved ones lost in similar circumstances. “Heartbreaking,” “inspiring,” and “hopeful” describe these books.
Myerson made the decision to write her story to help other parents. It is unclear at what point her son decided it was a fictionalized assault on his privacy – he was in his late teens when the troubles began and 20 when the book was first published. Scheff’s son and Greenberg’s daughter, on the other hand, were of legal age at the time of writing and approved of their fathers’ writings. A New York Times article, A Mother’s Memoir, A Son’s Anguish, gives an excellent discussion of this privacy dilemma. Underage child involved or only adults, all memoir writers must decide what to include about others in their lives and whether it is worth the possible ire or embarrassment of those others. If your book will help others desperately needing support, if it will help others gain understanding of the plight of others, is it worth it? Is it worth it for anything less? Can you be more tactful and respectful? These decisions should be made with a clear head sans thoughts of anger or revenge. And hopefully sheer exploitation for financial gain never crosses one’s mind.