Commenting on the great reviews garnered by Marisa Acocella Marchetto's Cancer Victim, Bookslut's Jessa Crispin makes my day:
Just because you lived through something doesn't mean you should write a book about it. I'm getting more and more weary with this "tell your story" bullshit. Yes, tell your story... to your grandkids or your nephew or your cat. The world at large doesn't need to know about it unless you're particularly good at the telling.
I haven't read Cancer Victim so can't comment re, but Crispin's sentiment is one I often find echoing in my head when reading refugee, war, and Holocaust memoirs for children. Too often, I think, they proceed from the assumption that having lived through horrific circumstances is justification enough for publication of memories of same, but it isn't. Nor is moral righteousness, or even heroism. (One of the most interesting Holocaust stories I've heard was from Maurice Sendak, who had met an old lady who as a child had performed in the original Theresienstadt production of Brundibar. Her most insistent memory--the one that still kept her up nights, he said--was about how she didn't get the plum part in the performance that she wanted.) It isn't the historical significance or the moral imperative of a book that gets it read. The testimony has to be compelling.
If not fun. I felt a distinct attack of moral seasickness this morning when I read a forthcoming pop-up book about the Irish famine (Life on a Famine Ship by Duncan Crosbie, published by Barron's in January '07.) Lift-the-flap and watch the farmhouse get wrecked! Lift-the-flap to see the corpse dropped over the side of the ship! Despite the protestations of Fraulein Maria, not everything can be turned into a game.