About Keeper of Stories

Welcome to my open memoir blog. In this space, I will share the writing of what I hope to publish someday as an unusual memoir. Authors don’t typically write in public, baring imperfections of early drafts and engaging readers in the writing process . But I was inspired by my husband’s blogging his experience of writing his latest book on microfinance.

I was born in Saigon and immigrated to the United States as a child in 1975. I learned to speak English without an accent and have other markers of the model minority – Harvard and Hopkins degrees, medical training, a successful career. I’m a happily married urban dweller, and mother of two biracial boys. I vote reliably. This is the only book I ever hope to write.

I used to think of a memoir as the summation ledger for a life, where we line up debits (crazy families, disabilities, natural disasters) and credits (nurturing parents, natural talent and grit, or the kooky acquaintance who takes us on an adventure), and assess their net effects. I would write such a memoir knowing who the heroine will be at the end, before I type the first word, and merely work backwards to reveal how and when her parts developed and came together.

This + That – Those = Girl.

But what if all I know is the shell of a heroine, the thing labeled with my name, and not what all the pieces are or how they fit?

Girl  = a2 + x – (32c)/b     and        Girl – 6 = (63 – e)/d3

Then the Girl is a puzzle, and maybe I can solve her through a memoir that tests many simultaneous equations.

Dissociation is a psychological phenomenon so common that it hides in plain sight. On any day, you might say that “your mind drifted away” and focused on something else even while you drove flawlessly down twenty miles of highway without remembering them. Or you self-gaze and say, “Oh, that’s the part of me that’s a six year-old,” after doing some mischief and enjoying it. This is normal.

At the other end of the spectrum, some heroines have what used to be called multiple personality disorder, and now is labeled dissociative identity disorder. This is the Many Faces of Eve, a freak show and a fascinoma. It derives from Sustained Trauma + Creativity, as a coping mechanism that can manifest as depression, forgetfulness, or bizarre behavior, and may go unrecognized for years.

In between these two poles is where I live, my insides a volatile jumble of fantasy, inherited traumas of generations, and tactile memories, but inching closer every day to normal.

I write in “chapterlets,” short bursts of association 2–4 pages long. I will post them in sequence, but they don’t form a tight narrative. That’s because I experience this memoir more as a series of dreams and poems than a linear history. Stay with me, and hopefully you will see the pieces falling into place. I’m inviting you on my exploration of my outer- and inner life. I would welcome your feedback and comments along the way.

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7 Responses to About Keeper of Stories

  1. Dorothy says:

    so lovely to hear your voice. I will visit often.

  2. Mai, thanks for sharing your link. I had not known you were doing this – courageous, adventurous and entirely compelling. As a side note: memoir is often distinguished by focus on a particular time or facet of a person’s life. Seems you might be constructing a kind of episodic autobiography. Frankly, however, I’m far less interested in what its genre might be than the fact that it is absorbing reading; and hopefully, in the writing, helpful to you on many levels. Carry on, with kudos to you for the explore!

  3. I applaud your bravery in being willing to bare your soul … your writing skills are far surer than mine. i too suffer from these torments, tho far briefer and further spread over time as the decades pass…. i have spent almost three decades in therapy trying to remember and forget at the same time… once i chose to blog about it more as a form of advocacy but learned early my blog was not a safe place for such a personal story.

    i look forward to reading your words and wish you many blessings along the way. and compassion. X

    • Mai Pham says:

      Linda, it’s quite possible I am naive in taking the risk. But since I waited until I felt confident that I had, in fact, conquered these challenges, I don’t feel as vulnerable to how others might respond. I definitely appreciate that for many others, doing something like this can be a much more frightening experience, depending on what stage they are in their therapeutic work. Thank you for making the connection.

  4. Pingback: Writing – A mirror to our selves | Oddznns

  5. oddznns says:

    HI there, I’ve been so impressed with how your writing “gathers up” the disparate pieces of yourself that I’ve mentioned it in a piece I did on my blog – Writing: A mirror to ourselves. It’s at

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