In this installment of Life Stories, a Beatrice podcast series of interviews with memoirists about their lives and the art of memoir writing, I chat with Cris Beam, the author of Mother, Stranger, a long essay published digitally by The Atavist, which specializes in long-form narrative nonfiction. As such, some time in our conversation is spent talking about the technological innovations available to Beam in presenting her autobiographical story—from supplementary audio and video to a timeline which puts the events she writes about, after learning from a stranger about her mother’s death spurred her to revisit the memories of her childhood years, into a chronological order, allowing readers to absorb the material from another perspective.
But we also discuss things that all memoir writers have to face, such as telling the story of your relationships when the other people involved make it clear they don’t want to be included, how to communicate a memory or an experience when you don’t have the vocabulary to articulate what has happened, and the fact that finding the answers to questions about your past doesn’t always bring closure and healing…
Cris Beam is the author of Transparent, a journalistic portrait of the transgendered teens she worked with at a Los Angeles support center, and the YA novel I Am J. Her next book, Falls The Shadow: The Crisis of American Foster Care, will be published in 2013.
Listen to Life Stories #10: Cris Beam (MP3 file); or download the file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click).
(On a technical note: This is my first “field recording” for Life Stories, in that we conducted the interview in the back corner of a downtown restaurant. I was quite pleased to learn, through trial and error, that the Audacity sound editing software was able to strip away the greater portion of the background noise, but you will still hear the occasional clang or other such noises—yet not so many, I hope, as to distract from Beam’s personal and professional revelations.)