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Speaking through the things of their lives: writing a memoir with my parents' melancholy objects
journal contributionposted on 24.04.2018, 00:00 by Susan Bond
In the process of writing my memoir about living with my adoptive parents, I have had to reconstruct their lives through the objects and things that they left behind. Our communication as a family – I was an only child – was fractured, difficult, sometimes non-existent. They kept secrets and spoke little about certain key aspects of their lives so that I knew little about them; this became clear after the death of my adoptive mother in 2001, when I discovered letters, documents, and a series of other objects that not only filled in gaps about their lives, but also told new stories. The photograph has been referred to as a ‘melancholy object’ by both Barthes and Sontag, and discussed as such by Gibson, and there is a photo of my parents in the 1950s, laughing together on their motor -boat, for which this description resonates. It is both my favourite image of them and an impossible contradiction, as I knew them only long after that time, when things had become more difficult, the boat had gone, and with it, seemingly, their happiness. This paper will discuss the use of such objects in the writing of memoir , with reference to my own experience and that of other adoptees in writing memoir.