Larry Lehmer talks about Liars. Or stretchers of truths. Fabulists (not to be confused with fabulous, or its shorter cousin, faboo). His post points to a faboo post about a fibbing Mom. Ann Hagman Cardinal tells her uncle a story her Mom had told her, and he –with other family members present – tells her the truth. That conversation sets her on her path as writer and storyteller.
I just stared at him, heat rising from my chest to my face.
Finally I sputtered, “What? Mom made it all up?” I began to recount the other stories she had told me. One after another, they were confirmed to be fiction. I was furious. Beyond furious. How could my mother feed me these lies year after year? And I believed her! I could just see her talking to me over her shoulder in the VW van, her self-righteous lecture about not telling stories ringing in my ears.
I stared at my half eaten lunch, tears gathering in my eyes. My cousin Jose Luis took my hand and said, “Annie, what does it matter if the stories are true or not? Isn’t our family as defined by the stories that aren’t true as by the ones that are? Write them down, Annie. That is your role in this family. Write them down, true or false. They are what makes us who we are.”
It was this revelation that helped me become a writer as well as a storyteller. My cousin taught me a very important lesson that day and I often hear his wise words in my head. Every day we have fewer and fewer opportunities to hear these oral histories (or, in my family’s case, historical fiction). […]
I want my son to hear the stories of his abuela [grandmother], no matter how outrageous, how fabricated. [read more]
Spoken recollections are not necessarily accurate. (hello Veteran History Project medal/valor accuracy controversy!) The pros among oral historians like to interview many people; the aggregated recollection about an event is a better witness to it than a single person’s memories.
Thank you for the very intriguing article. As we research our family stories, I’m sure most of us come across at least one remembrance that simply isn’t true. Each one of us may learn about the horse thief, or famous ancestor, or brush with death that never happened. My own experience is not that my family were outright liars, but rather they heard, or thought they heard something that led them to believe it, and possibly the story became embellished over time. Just as you are now the “keeper of the truth,” so am I for my own family. We have an important job! :D