Tag Archives: The Pat Boone Fan Club

Interview with Sue William Silverman For National Association of Memoir Writers

Sue Silverman
We want to welcome Sue William Silverman to another stop on the WOW–Women on Writing Blog Tour. This time, she has graciously written answers to questions by me, Linda Joy Myers, president of the National Association of Memoir Writers.

LJM: Sue, you have written two memoirs that had serious themes: sexual abuse and love addiction. What a surprise to see the humor and playfulness in this book! Can you talk about the different voices for each book, and a bit about how you thought about your voice, the process of finding voice—a challenging question for most memoir writers.

Thank you for noticing the humor! Well, I think if an atheist, Jewish, Democrat (me) has a life-long crush on a conservative Christian member of the Tea Party (Pat Boone), that’s just asking to be written ironically and with a sense of humor, albeit, in places, black humor. Pat Boone and me: It’s such an unlikely pairing. So even though my feelings for him are heartfelt, there’s still a surreal element to the relationship and, in particular, to the three separate encounters I had with him.

Generally speaking, each book we write needs to “find” its own voice. It’s not really a matter of an author finding her/his voice; it’s more a matter of finding the right voice for any given piece – at least that’s true for me.

In this way, each of my memoirs “sounds” different. In the first, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, I employ the scared, confused voice of a girl living with a dangerous father. The narrator in Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction sounds like a dark, edgy addict. Then, in The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, I rely on irony and humor. Actually, it’s even a bit more complicated: this new book is a series of linked essays, so I’m free to explore an even wider variety of voices. Sometimes I use a second-person point of view. Another essay is crafted like a screenplay, and so on.

In my experience, there’s no easy way to find or “hear” a voice for any given piece. It’s a matter of revising and revising until, finally, the right voice presents itself. In short, I just keep writing until an authentic sound and tone are revealed.

LJM: What was the process of finding the “angle” for your new memoir—with the theme of having a crush on Pat Boone when you were young—and later too! How would you define that “angle of view” in this book? How did you come up with it?

The fact that this book even exists is quite serendipitous. Here’s how it all started back in 2003: While glancing through a local newspaper (one I’d never read before), I happened to see that Pat Boone would be performing at the Calvary Reformed Church as part of Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan, near where I live.

Three thoughts hit me simultaneously:

1)      I happened to be scouting about for a new writing project.

2)      I always believed writers should write their obsessions.

3)      Pat Boone is one of mine!

Of course I attended the concert. I also barged backstage afterward to tell Pat Boone what he’d meant to me growing up: how he’d represented hope, safety, purity – an antidote for my scary father.

Subsequently, I wrote an essay about this encounter and published it in a magazine. At that time, though, I did not envision a book whatsoever.

Silverman, The Pat Boone Fan Club, for webInstead, I continued to write other stand-alone essays. I explored a wide variety of obsessions: a homeless tramp in the West Indies where I once lived; a high school boyfriend who resembled Pat Boone. I wrote about a trip to Yugoslavia with (as it turns out) an anti-Semitic boyfriend. I wrote about picking apricots in Israel where I became enamored with a paratrooper and his cute red paratrooper’s cap, and so on.

Then, when I was about three years into this essay-writing business, I realized that all the pieces revolved around a search for identity. Generally speaking, I grew up in a 1960s WASPy culture, and I wanted to escape my Russian Jewish heritage. I wanted to look like one of Pat Boone’s daughters. I wanted to fit in.

A-ha, I thought, maybe the essays could be formed into a book!

To ensure that all the elements cohered more emphatically around this theme of identity and belonging, I had to revise some sections. I also wrote brand new chapters in order for the parts to form a whole.

In short, the angle for this book only presented itself because of that fortuitous encounter with Pat Boone. Otherwise, this book wouldn’t exist! So I went with what real life gave me. And, in this instance, it gave me Pat Boone!

LJM: Clearly you have a great sense of humor and irony—and because of the serious nature of your first books, it did not come forward. Were you in different “moods” for each book, for instance? Did the general mood of the topic of your memoir affect how you wrote your books, the state of mind you were in, for instance?

Yes, I think I was in a different frame of mind while writing each book. I was about mid-therapy when I began Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You – my first memoir. And I began writing it, literally, about two weeks after my parents died (within six days of each other). So the darkness and intensity of this book certainly reflect my own emotional state at that time.

I began the second memoir, Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, relatively soon after I stopped acting out this addiction. So the experience, of course, was emotionally close to me. I was still, at times, struggling between choosing a life of safety over a life of danger. This conflict, I think, is evident in the voice of the narrator.

After these two books, I left much of this darkness behind. So, I probably was in a more ironic, lighter state of mind. And then, as I say, the material lent itself to ways I could be more playful with the language and the voice.

At the same time, I doubt if I could have even envisioned this new book if I hadn’t written the other two first.

LJM Did you have an outline for this book—or did you write sketches and follow an organic exploration of the topic?

I’ve never used an outline. I can’t even imagine how I would be able to come up with one. I barely know what I think until I write it. Writing, for me, is like following a whisper to see where I am led. It’s really how one word leads to another word. How one image suggests the next image…and how each word, each image then reveals a metaphor…as I go deeper and deeper into the heart of an essay or book.

This book is a great example of how imagination and creativity offered hope to a young girl who was suffering. Can you speak about that—for instance, how psychologically it helped you to have this crush on Pat Boone given that your father was abusing you, and had abused you for years. (Sue: Say whatever is comfortable for you about this—I’m kind of wearing my therapy hat here. I feel that creativity and imagination are a great help to people suffering, and would like to know your take on this.)

 I’m a firm believer that imagination and creativity are lifesavers. It offers one the ability to see other options or ways of living. For example, growing up, if I lacked imagination, I would only have seen the world as a dark, scary place.

But because (and who knows why) I was a creative kid, I was able to envision other lives. In the instance of Pat Boone, for example, the fact that I could imagine him as my father certainly helped me survive my own real father – never mind that this desire was pure fantasy!

And then, yes, when all is said and done, I found writing. And once I found writing, I was able to access the creativity in more positive ways. In short, I found authentic and creative ways to evolve into me.

Sue SilvermanSue William Silverman, author bio:

Sue William Silverman’s new memoir is The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew. Her two other memoirs are Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, which is also a Lifetime TV movie, and Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, which won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction. Her craft book is Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir.  As a professional speaker, Sue has appeared on The View, Anderson Cooper 360, and more.  She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

 

URL

Amazon link to The Pat Boone Fan Club: http://www.amazon.com/Pat-Boone-Fan-Club-Anglo-Saxon/dp/0803264852/ref=la_B000APU4YM_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383753234&sr=1-4

 

 

Three Memoirs-Three Voices| Review of The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew

 Sue William Silverman’s WOW Blog Tour

Silverman, The Pat Boone Fan Club, for web

 

Here at the National Association of Memoir Writers in partnership with WOW, Women on Writing, we are so pleased to celebrate the release of Sue William Silverman’s third memoir The Pat Boone Fan ClubMy Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew. I find it fascinating that the same person who wrote Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You and Love Sick has written such a delightful and humorous memoir.

I’ve been a fan of Sue William Silverman’s memoirs since “before” read her first book. I’d heard of her award winning memoir Because I Remember Terror, Father—a punch in the stomach title—and frankly, it scared me a little. I’d read Sue’s website and was eager to have her speak about writing her truth with us at NAMW. By now, Sue has been a guest several times, and is featured in our upcoming FREE Memoir Telesummit here on May 9.

During our first phone conversation, I told her my cautions about reading her memoir. FYI–I’m a therapist who works with abuse victims, depression, and other hidden aspects of the human condition, so sometimes I can’t bear to hear another dark story. Sue laughed and told me that others had the same reservations ,but she shared her writing and healing process—a subject that I consider one of the most important topics in the world, I knew I HAD to read her memoir immediately. If she could have the courage to write about a childhood of being molested by her father, I could find the chutzpah to read it. Her book took me on a journey of beauty, haunting insights and compassion, and illuminated my world rather than darkening by her story—which is what I think we all hope our books will offer readers.

Her second memoir Lovesick goes on to tell the story of Sue as an adult, a young woman who’s living the results of what happened to her in childhood—caught in the web of sex and love addiction. This memoir is in the voice of the addict, in her desperate search for comfort that becomes destructive. Again, I found myself immersed completely in her story, eager to find out how, and if, she extricates herself from these traps. The voice is that of a fragile woman in conflict with herself who comes to learn that her behavior has a name—addiction—and that there’s treatment for it. We weave in and out of the search for love in a bittersweet story.

After such serious books, The Pat Boone Fan Club:My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew  surprised me with its humor, irony, and range of voices. The title is a clue to the tone of playfulness and the different shifting lenses through which we’ll view her life. What was interesting to me was how she offered yet another angle, tone, and language about some of the previous events in her life—especially the abuse by her father and its effect on her. We come to understand that when she was young, Pat Boone, a pop song hero to her generation, represented the polished, smiling, “good” father figure, someone she could look up to and admire. He was safe, he had daughters too, and he was the ideal WASP father who could offer, in fantasy at least, the kind of life she was yearning for. Through him, she could, in her mind at least, turn her back on her Jewish father and background. People who are abused find solace in fantasy.

Other themes include yearning for the acceptance of the WASP society around her, despite being Jewish, and her need to find a way to feel safe—which she was able to do through her well-developed fantasy life focused on Pat Boone. The essays of how she met Pat Boone—twice, when she was young and then again when she’s had time to understand how she had drawn upon his WASP qualities to create an illusion of safety. Learn about the survival tactic of weaving fantasy and reality, and the power of imagination to help heal our wounds.

 

The essays take us to Israel where she searches for identity, missing out on the protests of the Viet Nam war and the excitement at home. In the poetic “The Summer of War and Apricots,” Israel shimmers with heat, color, and new love. Her descriptions carry the power of dream as we are immersed in the sensuality of the moment, a skill she draws upon in all the essays. One of the playful aspects of the book is how she combines word play with poetry. In “Prepositioning John Travolta,” she plays with prepositions, and “Swimming Like a Gefilte Fish,” she develops word play on images that becomes theme throughout the book. In “My Sorted Past” Sue writes about the interplay between the “real” life she lived upon which Lovesick was based, as she is on the set with an actress who plays her role—a tilting balance of reality, imagination, and creativity.

In all the essays, Sue seems to delight in the carnival of wavy mirrors in the funhouse to turn “reality” upside down and backwards as she experiments with language, explores “what is real and what is truth,” and shows the fragmentation of self that abuse can cause. Here she no longer needs to create a realistic narrative, but finds her strength in embracing fractured views of her life, holding her own center now, showing her strength as a creative writer who is not afraid of her own past and her story.

Read more about Sue and her work on her website.

Linda Joy Myers

 

Please comment about your views of Sue’s books in the comment section of the blog! Which essay was your favorite? If you have read her other books, how do you hear the three voices?

 

 

 

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