Editing our stories

Years ago I read a book by Elizabeth Stone that I’ll likely refer to from time to time. In Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins: How Our Family Stories Shape Us, Stone dives into the mythology we create for our own lives.

A new edition of the 1989 book was issued in 2004 so I’m clearly not the only one who thinks Stone did a brilliant job of diving beneath the surface of the stories we tell about ourselves.

Here’s a quote: “…one’s autobiography is made up not just of what happened but of a view of oneself from a certain perspective. Given the perspective, certain facts, though true, are irrelevant, while other facts are accorded importance because they seem to support the vision of oneself, stated or unstated, that governs the autobiography. But even the facts that do matter have to be presented so that their significance is clear.”

Re-reading the quotation reminds me of the differing versions my mother and her two sisters told about the same people and events. Each fit differently into the three autobiographies. I used to shake my head. Now that I’ve spent decades editing my own life, I think it’s completely normal.

NB: Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins is still in print

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