Memoir In Progress
PAY ATTENTION TO THE FAIRY GODMOTHER—is a memoir about family stories in the style of The Happiness Project, The Year of Living Biblically, and Julie and Julia.
I travel from a ranch in Idaho to an island off the coast of Denmark with various stops along the way piecing together my family’s history. I learn who tends the family ghosts, why every girl needs a horse, and new respect for the fairy folk. What distinguishes my project is that I’m not trying to prove my history or gather dates and documents. My goal is more quixotic. My family tells love stories. Since we expect our lives to turn out like the stories we hear, I want to know how those love stories shaped me—never mind that I haven’t lived within a thousand miles of home since I was nineteen-years-old.
Stories have the power to create the way we see the world. Unless we pause, once in awhile, and ask “why that story” or “why that stories told that way,” we may find ourselves living someone else’s version of who we are. That’s especially true of family stories that are anything but subtle in the way they instill values and set tone.
Paying attention to your family stories might be as important as knowing your family medical history. It has been documented that people who experience a genealogical void often have serious identity problems. Hence the drive for adopted children to find their “real” parents and African Americans, with slavery backgrounds, to make DNA connections to a particular part of the African continent. Even without such a void, most of us benefit from a deeper sense of roots. In some studies that’s being called the “ancestor effect.”
PAY ATTENTION TO THE FAIRY GODMOTHER: Finding Magic in Your Family Stories is 225 pages/14 chapters. It encourages readers to examine their own histories, but it is not a how-to. Looking for family stories is less about filling out forms and more about going on a storied adventure. Doesn’t everyone have a pirate and/or a Mormon polygamist in the family? If the NBC series “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the websites–Ancestry.com, Family Tree DNA and FamilySearch–are any indication, lots of us would like to know where this journey might go.
I have written three novels (Pocket Books) and numerous short stories and essays that have appeared in various literary magazines. In the last chapter of PAY ATTENTION, I note that I have a short bio, a long bio, and a formal resume, but my story is something else—something richer and deeper. This book is about my search for story. I bring to the task a background in journalism (I was writing for my hometown newspaper at age sixteen) and a fiction writer’s sensibility. I have a blog connected to this project and tweet regularly about family stories @jerriehurd.