One family, three memoirs–musings from Pat McNees

In One Family, Three Memoirs, Many Competing Truths, Lynn Neary explores one family’s experiences as told by two brothers and their mother, each from their own point of view. Each story deals with the family’s mental health (or lack of it). The family in question is the Robisons, whose travails were first exposed in Running with Scissors, published by Chris Robison under the pen name Augusten Burroughs.

When Pat McNees posted to the Association of Personal Historians (APH) listserv about this, it caught my attention, because (1) I am from a family that has its own quirky blend of mental illness and, well, different-ness–and (2) because I really, REALLY hated Running with Scissors. I couldn’t get past the feeling that he shouldn’t be writing so funnily about such a tragedy. I kept wanting to call a social worker in to STOP THE MADNESS. But I’m over that now–and interested in the questions about truth in memoir that this three-points-of-view group of books presents. Maybe I’ll have to read the rest of them.

Here’s what Pat McNees (who presides as the president of APH) posted recently…

Lynn Neary’s article about one family’s experiences as remembered by first Augusten Burroughs in Running with Scissors: A Memoir (viewpoint: Mother was crazy and neglected us and our childhood was nuts); then by sibling John Elder Robison in  Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s and more recently Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers (you too can rise above a bad start in life); and now by their mother, Margaret Robison, in The Long Journey Home: A Memoir, writing honestly about her difficult life and “hard-earned journey to sanity.” Absolutely perfect example of how truth in memoir is unique to the memoir writer and not a precise goal that can be shared by others involved in the same life.

Pat McNees
Writers and Editors,,,


If the subject of truth in memoir interests you, (and really, what is more central to the craft of writing memoir?) check out some earlier posts by Pat McNees to her blog, “Writers and Editors”…

Memoir: The line between truth and fiction

Whose Truth: The ethics of memoir

Enjoy this food for thought!

-Sarah White

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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