"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Monday, December 17, 2012

Emergent memoir update

Monday (12/17): Since last I posted about my new memoir, I 've gotten lots of comments suggesting that I emphasize the sensational parts of my story, such as my mother's relationship with a member of the Purple gang during the 1920s and the incidences up in the mountains of North Carolina when my grandpa and his bothers were making Moonshine and running from the revenue agents. (I love long sentences!)

I am not averse to hanging out my dirty laundry, as I've learned that my family is not much different from most. We all have our dirty little secrets we'd rather not disclose, but it's important to me as a writer of memoir to be honest and authentic. Not that I'm looking for shocking events from my family's lives to expose but, if it's an integral part of the story, I do not want to be afraid to write about it.

The Purple gang connection has piqued my curiosity. In addition, I received an email from the brother of an on-line writer friend, who is writing a book about that era and the gang. He wants to exchange information, and I'm tempted to do so, only I really don't have a lot of information. So, I've decided to do some research about how my mother met this person, where she was living, and what she was doing at the time. 

Tuesday (12/25): I've started my research on the "Purples" and, honestly, what I've found so far is somewhat frightening. I'm not sure I want to pursue this. And, I can't believe my mother would have been involved with a man who was part of this gang.  She was a gentle person, beautiful and loving. At least as far as I know. But I only really "knew" who she was, after I became an adult. Before that, I saw her through the eyes of a child.......(more later)

Saturday (12/29): With Christmas over and my family gone, I've returned to my research. I'm going to give it another try even though the last exploration turned up some awful things about the Purple gang that turned me off temporarily. Today, I'm trying to figure out how and where my mother met her gangland boyfriend who, according to my sister, wasn't her boyfriend for very long. 

Seems my grandmother was in the room when my mother received a Christmas gift from him. It was a huge box that contained a sable coat with a diamond ring in the pocket. Guess the family, including my mother, had thought he was a nice young middle class boy with a crush on their daughter. When Roxie (my grandmother) saw the coat and ring, she freaked out and made my mother send it back and break up with him. Roxie, the matriarch,  always had good instincts and suspected immediately that he was part of  the Purple gang which, at that time, was running rampant in Detroit. Guessing again,  he may have looked like someone she saw in the newspaper.


if you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a comment


  1. Hi Nancy,

    Returned from Australia yesterday and wanted to touch base. Fascinated with this blog, but have no time to read previous posts. First of all, do not be afraid! I know the feeling and was told writers tell the truth and should not fear. It's hard but stories must be told so others don't repeat the same mistakes. People want what's real to the best of your ability. With no writers, there would be no history. I'm behind you 110%.

    Thank you for the encouraging words you left on my blog. I left a comment and an email address. I'd love to help you any way I can. :)

    Nancy MacMillan @ blogofavetswife.blogger.com.

    1. Hi Nancy, Thanks for visiting me again after your trip. I really appreciate your interest and support for my new memoir. It's quite a challenge to me because it discloses so much about my family that they might not have been eager to air in public. However, since the people involved are long gone and those of us who are left are in favor of my story, guess I'll just run with it.

  2. Hi Nancy,
    Wonderful post! I suspect that your mother fell in some ways for the 'bad boy' in the archetypal sense--even if she wasn't consciously aware of it. You may not have access to your mom's papers/diaries, but I wondering if you can speculate about the feelings she had when with him (did she feel safe, unique, powerful, wanted, etc?) Gangs have been a part of American culture for a long time and I think your readers will find some of the historical details fascinating. Wow, a sable coat--in those days they must have cost a fortune! Happy excavating.

    1. Michele, Thanks for the comments and suggestions. They are very helpful. What a great idea...speculating about her feelings when she was with him. I can do that, for sure. This really gives me an interesting and fruitful avenue to pursue. She must have felt safe. Don't know if that would have been true if she'd known what he was doing when she wasn't with him. So happy you stopped by and commented. You've opened up a whole new area for me.

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  4. Totally understand why your grandmother and mother would have her return the coat. Sounds too much like a gift of a gangster's moll, which obviously your mother wasn't -- and didn't want to be. These are fascinating tidbits in a family history and even if the relationship was for a brief time, it's worth exploring. It's exciting -- and the break up tells a lot about your mother and her family.

  5. Thanks, Linda, for the nice comment. Hope you're right about my mother. From whatb my sister told me, it was my grandmother's idea to send the coat back, not my mother's. She was so naive and young (eighteen), I don't think she realized the implications.