Lunch with a memoirist proves encouraging

Honesty takes time.

Author Tilli Schulze told me this over lunch today. She agreed to meet me to talk about my memoir, and we dined al fresco while discussing writing, publishing, motherhood and the weather.

In her case, the opportunity to be honest took decades. Her memoir about her girlhood is set in East Germany during World War II. She escaped to America, but many of her family members stayed in East Germany under communist rule. She waited to write her book until after the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism.

When she finally connected with writer Lorna Collier, it took two more years of back and forth to tell her story honestly. The result is “Tilli’s Story: My Thoughts Are Free,” which I reviewed a couple of months ago on my Minnesota Transplant blog (click here for the review).

In my case, honesty took 10 years and a lot of soul-searching. Tilli and I agreed that everyone should write a memoir. It’s a form of therapy that forces you to process whatever it is you’re writing about.

Author Jessica Stern admits this, too, in her book, “Denial” A Memoir of Terror.” I picked up her book in the True Crime section of Barnes & Noble to read as research for my own memoir. Stern was raped at 15 by a stranger with a gun in an unlocked suburban home. She denied the pain and trauma of the assault for 30 years and, astonishingly, built a career as an expert on terrorists.

“The process of writing this book has taught me a great deal about the lingering effects of severe trauma,” Stern writes. In the course of researching her book, she came to understand she was a victim of post traumatic stress disorder. She employed denial to cope with the assault, and she recounts — by exploring the police files and interviewing relevant parties — how an entire community employed denial which ultimately permitted the perpetrator to commit at least 44 child rapes in that area before being imprisoned three decades ago.

I am not the victim of PTSD, but I can relate with how Stern learned things about herself and experienced her pain in order to expunge it through the writing of the book. Tilli Schultz, too, says she felt lighter and better after finishing her book.

Time, indeed, heals all wounds.

Tilli Schulze’s book, a great read about the strength of women or for those interested in World War II history, is now available on Kindle and Nook, too. Jessica Stern’s “Denial” should be required reading for anyone who has or knows someone who has post-traumatic stress disorder.


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