Though Eve answered not a single one of the fourteen questions I’d posed to her, I have to admit to being remarkably impressed with her gentility. Instead of slamming the door in my face, which a haughtier person might have done, she simply refused to walk through it. The conversation remained more-or-less open, as long as it went in a different direction. Which, in fact, it did. At least for me. I turned it on my writer friends — showed them her book, read them my interview questions, and invited the conversation that I now bring to this forum: What kind of boundaries can we/should we/may we erect around our private lives if we willingly — and for profit — make ourselves and our experiences part of the public sector?
I eventually talked Eve into answering three of those original fourteen questions (full text follows), and trust that despite our differing perspectives and priorities we treated each other respectfully enough throughout this exchange that we might one day develop that friendship I originally angled for should we ever find ourselves seated on the same side of the table. In the meantime, however, I’d love to open the dialogue to this group of RPCV writers and readers. Read the original interview questions and chime in via the “comment” option: Do interviewers/readers/the public have the right to dig so deeply into an author’s motives and sensibilities? And what responsibility do authors have to answer comprehensively to the subjects raised in their writing?
While there is no definitive answer, I will start what I hope will be an interesting conversation by leaving you with my and Eve’s opinions on the subject, as illustrated by this exchange:
[Ellen]: I knew I was coming to you with personal and controversial issues, but given that they all stem directly from the subject matter in your book, or the way in which you wrote about those subjects, I was trusting they weren’t off limits.
[Eve]: I think in writing, like in everything in life, we all have the obligation to share our stories and protect our boundaries to whatever extent feels right to us. In writing this particular memoir, I wasn’t afraid to bring up some personal issues (about my sexual abuse and medevac, for instance), nor am I shy about addressing them (it’s our imperfections that make us human — and interesting — after all). But writing about our experience of something doesn’t necessarily make any of us a spokesperson for those issues — or for anyone else with an experience of those issues. We can only speak to our own experiences. And only to the extent that we choose.
(End of Part 3)