“There Is No Such Thing as a True Story” by Ellen Urbani (Guatemala)

Ellen Urbani (1991–93) emailed me this article and note:

Not that this has anything to do with Peace Corps, but an essay of mine came out in The Rumpus yesterday. It’s one that was almost 15 years in the making; hard to tell, but important, I believe. Please feel free to share if you’re so inclinedhttp://therumpus.net/2016/03/there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-true-story/



There is no such thing as a true story.

I know this because my daughter insists I told her to put her dirty dishes in the sink when I know I told her to put them in the dishwasher, and because my sister swears that on a late summer night in 1990 I deliberately flicked a Japanese beetle into her mouth when—cross my heart and hope to die—I only intended to swat it off my mother’s shoulder. I know this because my former spouse will tell you nothing of note occurred on the night I feared he would kill me.

MORE AT: http://therumpus.net/2016/03/there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-true-story/


Ellen Urbani is the author of Landfall (2015), a work of historical fiction set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the memoir When I Was Elena (2006), a Book Sense Notable selection documenting her life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala during the final years of that country’s civil war.

She has a bachelor’s degree from The University of Alabama and a master’s degree from Marylhurst University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and numerous anthologies, and has been widely excerpted. She’s reviewed books for The Oregonian, served as a federal disaster/trauma specialist, and has lectured nationally on this topic. Her work has been profiled in the Oscar-qualified short documentary film Paint Me a Future. A Southern expat, she now resides on a farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.


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  • Ellen, Thank you for this heart wrenching account. Of course, it is about Peace Corps, too. I haunt the National Archives looking for the “real story” of my time in Colombia. There are only tissue thin copies of office reports and memos that speak to a world I certainly never knew. Memoirs speak to one time, one place and one voice. What is still so hard to find are the voices of people we “served” except by gifted authors, such as yourself.

    I read “LandFall”. The desperation and terror in the attic will stick with me and shape what I think of, always, when I hear the word “Katrina”. There is truth in fiction, too.

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