In the sixth installment of Life Stories, my series of podcast interviews with memoir writers, I spoke with Kambri Crews about Burn Down the Ground, her account of growing up as the hearing child of deaf parents in a rural Texas community. One of the first things we talked about is what motivated her to tell this story:
“I work in the comedy business, and a lot of comedians—when they would find out about my story—they would kind of salivate, almost, over these awesome stories that I had, growing up in the wild, in the woods with these deaf people. Because they’re always mining their lives for material, their day-to-day lives or the past, to try to find something funny to say on stage. And here I’m sitting on this treasure trove of material, and not doing anything with it. Everyone just kept saying, ‘You’ve got to write a book, you’ve got to write a book!’”
It’s not all laughs, though: As her parents’ marriage falls apart, the teenage Crews is forced to observe as her father’s behavior turns increasingly violent—including a brutal assault on her mother that is dismissed as a routine matter by local law enforcement. Decades later, long after Crews had put her hometown behind her, she found out that her father was now being accused of attempted murder, and she needed to decide whether to steer the police towards the files on that earlier incident. (It’s not a spoiler when I tell you that the memoir is framed by a contemporary account of visiting her father in prison.) Because the interview took place shortly after the revelations that Mike Daisey had fabricated several of the details in his dramatic monologue “The Agony and the Ecstacy of Steve Jobs,” we also talked quite a bit about the obligations of truth telling in memoir. It’s a great conversation, and I hope you enjoy listening to it.
Listen to Life Stories #6: Kambri Crews (MP3 file); or download the file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click).