Biography Food Silk tent Travel Writing

Cherries and ‘The White Silk Tent’

This morning I spent a sunny hour picking sour cherries on a farm five minutes from my parents’ house. It was a stunning crop, the trees all thick with brilliant fruit, and almost all of it ripe. The clusters of cherries looked like Pop Art: stark, amazing, slightly translucent red. We picked nineteen pounds, and it wasn’t easy to stop — there were so many, and they were beautiful and so easy to pick.

Then we came home and I wrote while my parents pitted them. I think I got the better end of the deal.

I’m working on The White Silk Tent, my revision of my grandmother’s memoir. I’ve been reading biographical theory to try to situate myself and my strategies: what kind of voice did I want to use, what sort of other research did I want to do? I thought for a while, and then I started writing. And I’m still thinking, of course. But for now, my version contains three kinds of text:

  • Sections of Louise’s original manuscript, very slightly edited for clarity
  • Biographical sections based on her manuscript but substantially rewritten and edited, and recast in the third person
  • Interpolations in my voice which allow me to comment on her memoir, to add information she didn’t have, to interpret things, etc.

And then, likely, documentary material — text and photos from the trunk of family memorabilia she left to accompany the manuscript, and maybe things from the HRC, as well.

My goal for the summer is to get three chapters completed and polished, so that I’ll have a sense of the process involved in writing the book and the amount of time I’ll need to complete it. And then I’ll need to get back to working on academic projects and thinking about my dissertation — which may also be related to biography. (I’m reading Paula Backscheider’s Reflections on Biography now with great interest. And on that note: you can find my new Goodreads page here.)

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