Memoirists who bare it all


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Not many people are comfortable disclosing intimate details of their life struggles to an auditorium full of strangers, but that is exactly what happened in the Fowler auditorium on Saturday during the “Memoirs with a Twist” panel at the L.A. Times Festival of Books.

Authors Gustavo Arellano, Chris Ayres, Marion Winik and Rachel Resnick shared with the audience about the tough aspects of memoir-writing: writing about dead people and being addicted to sex -- and the sometimes unfortunate effects of being honest.


Arellano is the author of “Orange County: A Personal History” (2008) and the column-turned-book “Ask A Mexican” (2007). He drew inspiration for his hilarious memoir from his background as a child of Mexican immigrants growing up in America.

“In third grade … we created a game called La Migra, which is slang for ‘immigration,’ where basically you have two groups,” Arellano said. “One group was ‘the Mexicans’ and the other group was ‘the border patrol.’ ”

Erika Shickel, fellow memoir author of “You’re Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom” (2007), moderated what she called the “distinguished yet spicy” panel.

Shickel joked that Resnick’s biography sounded “almost like a rap sheet.” Resnick’s memoir, “Love Junkie: A Memoir of Love and Sex Addiction” (2008), and her other books are candid writings about her lifelong attraction to bad relationships and sex in order to fulfill the need for love.

During the panel, Resnick also revealed that such personal accounts often lead to damaging repercussions; her father recently retracted his approval of her frank memoir and cut ties with her.

Winik’s “The Glen Rock Book of the Dead” (2008) also encompasses the more serious pain and tragedy of life. Her barely 100-page memoir contains 51 short eulogies honoring lives that have intersected her own, from artist Keith Haring and an unnamed eye doctor to her first husband and the tragically short life of her child.


Ayres confessed that during nearly every waking second of his nine-day tour of Iraq, he felt he was going to die. The Los Angeles correspondent for the Times of London wrote “War Reporting for Cowards” (2005) and, most recently, “Death by Leisure” (2009).

“I have the distinction of being the first journalist to officially desert the unit I was embedded in,” Ayres quipped.

Resnick said how much fun she was having with the other authors. And throughout the panel, the authors were open, honest and laughing with one another and the audience about their lives, something perhaps memoir writers are better at than the rest of us.

-- Kelsey Ramos