Speaking through the things of their lives: writing a memoir with my parents' melancholy objects

Sue Bond
2017 Text: Journal of the Australian Association of Writing Programs  
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
more » ... her 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. Biographical note: Sue Bond is a PhD candidate at Central Queensland University. She has degrees in medicine, literature, and creative writing, and publications in several print and online journals. Her essay 'A hole in the heart: on secrets, silence, and sorrow' was long-listed for the Calibre Essay Prize in 2014.
doi:10.52086/001c.25832 fatcat:2nacuxcgzrhp7o6nppgjc3y56y