Walls described the act of writing her memoir as transformative, evidence of the power of story
Thursday, October 25, 2012
A gossip columnist for MSNBC, she hobnobbed with celebrities and the New York City elite, appeared regularly on television to dish - but held secrets of her own.
Revealing all those secrets in her memoir “The Glass Castle,” Walls shared what had been a deep shame - that her parents were homeless in New York City while she rubbed elbows with celebrities, that she’d had a childhood in abject poverty.
Speaking at Boston Symphony Hall at Lesley University’s Boston Speakers Series, Walls described the act of writing her memoir as transformative, evidence of the power of story, and a coming to terms with the gifts her parents bestowed on her and her siblings - even as their childhoods were filled with real hunger, homelessness and homes with no heat or running water, and at times, nearly freezing to death.
“But I’ve come to believe those of us who faced difficulties and challenges can also have advantages,” said Walls. “We don’t take anything for granted, we know the difference between needs and wants. Today I have four flush toilets in my home, and I still appreciate that miracle.”
More important than her tale of living through a childhood in poverty, she said, is the “power of story” that we all have if we choose to share it. In writing “The Glass Castle,” she developed two “fantasies” for the book. First, that a “rich kid” would read it and alter their perspective on the poor. And second, that a poor kid would read it and feel empowered.
Through book groups, and readers approaching her after readings and talks about the work, both fantasies have come true many times over.
“We all have stories, and they have the power to help others see the world differently, to change a life,” Walls said.
Walls’ memoir describes truly horrific poverty with parents ill-equipped to raise children. She relayed she had misgivings about including one scene - where her mother hides and eats chocolate while her four children are completely without food - but focused many of her remarks on the positive gifts her parents gave her.
The “Glass Castle,” the never-delivered fantasy house her father promised that served as the book title, gave her the ability to believe in herself, the notion that she could dream and achieve. During an audience Q & A, she described her father as her hero.
Today, Walls’ mother lives with her in Virginia and was a major influence on Walls’ latest work - “Half Broke Horses” is a “true-life novel” about Walls’ grandmother.
The next event in the Boston Speakers Series is on November 28 with Lisa Ling, former field correspondent for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” former co-host of “The View,” and contributor to National Geographic Explorer and ABC News’ Nightline. Ling will discuss her passionate and in-depth coverage of international stories, many of which are overlooked by the mainstream media.
To learn more about Lesley's Boston Speakers Series and see a full schedule of events, click here.
See the full speakers schedule and read coverage of the events.
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