My mom has been receiving many e-mails from friends and family, who are sending congratulations about my published short story collection. Although all of the messages have been laudatory and positive, she occasionally gets frustrated because several people have not understood that these stories are entirely works of fiction. Some of her friends think that these are essays on my life or stories based on episodes of my life.
For the record, the stories in Growing Up Girl are entirely fictional.
In one of the stories, “Rituals,” a young girl named Jasmine has a mother who is into Pagan rituals and ceremonies and owns her own New Age shop. Some of my mom’s friends now think that she’s a little witchy and into spells and rituals. They failed to take in the other details about Jasmine’s mother such as her bright orange hair and the fact that her daughter’s name is Jasmine, not Anne. In another story, “Tattoo,” the main character’s mother abandons her and her father and hightails it to Florida. My mom’s friends obviously know that this is not true, so do they still believe these stories are based on real events?
The first sentence in “Tattoo” is: “When I was fourteen years old I fell in love with a tattoo artist.” The narrator then begins to talk about cruising the streets of North Philly with her friends. I heard through the grapevine that one of my co-workers said that he never knew that I was from Philly. (I am not from Philly and I’ve never been in love with a tattoo artist.)
I believe that a little bit of me is in each story – bits of myself like my ideas and creativity – not bits of my personal life or history. I create stories. I do not transpose my biography onto characters with fictional names. Readers like to make connections with the author’s work and the author’s real life, especially if they happen to know the author personally. Why is this? Why can’t the stories just be stories?