His Story and My Story

There is a lot of passionate argument right now about Prince Harry’s memoir “Spare”. It seems that the book as well as the television interviews and Netflix episodes have all been incredibly polarizing. The world is lining up—for or against. Why?

Are we all experts in the history of British Royalty? Of course not. We read newspaper and magazine articles, watch TV series like “The Crown”, and sit through endless movies about Princess Diana. None of this leads to expertise. It simply means that most of us are captivated by wealth and celebrity. Regardless, it doesn’t stop us from loving, hating, or spouting smug opinions.

Gossip and judgment of others have been part of communal life since the beginning of humanity. Perhaps our early ancestors had less time to indulge their inner critic. Ironically, the civilization of mankind seems to have led to less civility. Now we have platforms that allow all of us to become keyboard critics and civility has flown out the window.

Generally, I can ignore the glut of self-satisfied judgment that permeates social media. But not this time. What is the reason for my ardent reaction to public remarks about Harry’s book? Well, he has written a memoir and I know a bit about memoirs, having written two of them. A memoir is personal. “Spare” is his story. “Nine Years in Bangkok” and “Geckos & Guns” are my stories.

Many readers enjoyed my first memoir about the Bangkok years and understood that this was my soul’s journey. They understood that part of my reason for writing it was to reach people who could identify with my struggles and perhaps find a path for themselves. Others cast aspersions. They accused me of writing a revenge book, of telling too much, of revealing things that should have been kept to myself. Some were uncomfortable with my forthright honesty.

At first, I was hurt by these critical comments. I couldn’t understand why people would be uncomfortable with my truth. I now realize that reactions to my book (or any book) are a reflection of whoever is reading it.

I wrote a memoir, my story. People revealed themselves in their reactions. Individuals chose either a negative or a positive lens through which to interpret my words. Harry wrote a memoir, his story. He has clearly stated that his main reason for writing it was to clear the air and document his experiences and perceptions. His story belongs to him. Those who dispute his words are free to write their story. Readers are free to be judgmental but those with greater insight will understand that each of us lives according to our unique experiences. We are all mistake-making beings. We can develop greater insight into the human condition by reading with compassion.

Those who write memoirs should be free to tell their truth. I wrote candidly and sincerely as does Prince Harry. We have both been criticized for that by some. Of course, Harry’s life is lived under a massive public spotlight. Some of the hate expressed towards him and his wife must have been very hard to take. I am grateful that I didn’t have to contend with that. I don’t have royal wealth or celebrity but, from my little corner of the world, I will defend anyone’s right to tell their truth. The following quote is an excellent reflection of my point of view:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”  — Anne Lamont, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.