Peggy Sue Dunigan
Good Read

I’m sorry you feel that way… A memoir (sort of)

By - May 13th, 2010 04:00 am
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On a rainy May day in Milwaukee author Diana Joseph waits to read from her second published book at Oconomowoc’s Books and Company. She’s completing the last leg of the promotional tour for the paperback release of  I’m Sorry You Feel That Way:The Astonishing But True Story of A Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, And Friend to Man & Dog. It’s quite a mouthful.

“It seemed to fit,” Joseph says of the lengthy title, “It’s probably one of the most passive-aggressive responses I can think of.”

Most of I’m sorry… was taken from the pages of Joseph’s personal journals and wrote most of the chapters “while she was living them.” In that sense, she considers the book to be more personal narrative than memoir.

With straightforward details and direct conversational statements, the narrative often makes one cringe, at other times smile and many times laugh. Joseph articulates the mundane, the unpredictability of daily life and the day-to-day dirt with stark factuality and rarely any sentiment. And yet underneath these droll musings and common themes there lies clarity and warmth.

This uncommon charm finally culminates in the latter chapters where the reader begins to appreciate the author’s unassuming life. In one titled “The Boy, Again,” Joseph talks about her son by succinctly claiming: “My thirteen years of parenting this boy can be summed up in three sentences: I adore you. What the hell do you want from me now? I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” When the chapter moves forward, Joseph reflects upon a summer when she was 25 and the boy in question was four. She had become so depressed that she could barely bring herself to feed her son cheerios in the morning , and spent most of her days trolling Internet chat rooms. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” she says to her son when he’s thirteen, thinking that these past events somehow scarred him for life.

Life for Joseph, and everyone, happens in unforeseeable terms, unknown until they stare you in the face. This is the astonishment she unravels without apology. She and her son ( now 18 years old) both survived and they’re doing well.

The reader innately understands these survival tactics as necessary in the modern world, and saying these things with honesty opens the doors to accepting them without undue guilt. But I was curious about the family and friends who have read the book —what did they think? Joseph says that her son calmly mentioned to his mother in passing, “There were some things about your sex life I didn’t need to know.”

Diana Joseph
is the author of several books and short essays. She also teaches creative writing at Minnesota State University.

Categories: Books

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