Memoir has been a hot ticket in publishing for over 20 years now, more often preferable to autobiography because of the intimate perspective in the telling. Rossandra White has just published her first memoir, which, like many memoirs, starts in the present and moves back and forth through the past. What’s to come remains to be seen, but White has retired from her career with the postal service to write full-time, so stay tuned.
“Love You Bye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog” published by She Writes Press, opens when White’s husband of 25 years abruptly leaves. Not the first time he has disappeared, but perhaps the last, and in the midst of that crisis, White has to return to her native South Africa to negotiate the difficult terrain of a brother who needs special care. To make matters worse, her beloved dog is coming to the end of his life. One might say a triple play.
The memoir is very much about firsts and lasts, beginnings and endings, and the ubiquitous battle between past and future. However this author believes nothing ever really comes to an end. “There is always a new beginning.”
White arrived in the U.S. in 1970 seeking a new identity. “When I came here, I felt like I could breathe,” she says. “In South Africa, there was no place for me to be me.”
She started her new life in Huntington Beach and after her first marriage ended, she migrated to Laguna Beach, where she has resided for 30 years. She and second husband Larry, the featured character in the memoir, sold their pottery at the Sawdust Festival for three years. While reading the memoir, one might marvel that White stayed in the marriage so long, but that is a common theme in long-term marriages that suddenly seem to implode, and White may provide perspective for other spouses who fail to see or simply do not have the courage to confront reality.
“Things are always more than they appear to be, that’s my personal belief system,” White says. She has spent a lifetime privately documenting such thoughts in the piles of journals that inspired her first writings. She has previously written, but not yet published, two young adult novels based on her early journey in Zimbabwe and Zambia. She says the novels are about family, race, and “the dark magic of a society poised on the brink of change.”
Modern memoir often pushes the boundaries of truth and might be more accurately defined as reflections about recollections. “Love You Bye” reads in part like fiction, packed with dialogue and landscape, and when I inquired why she penned a memoir, White reminded me that memoir is not memory. “It’s what haunts us.”
White apparently has no shortage of demons. She intends to write a second memoir. You can learn more about her life and writings at a book talk at Laguna Beach Books, Thursday April 10 at 6 p.m. Or go to www.rossandrawhite.com.
Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com. Her novel “Colors of the Wheel” is available at Laguna Beach Books. www.randykraftwriter.com or @ocbookblogger.