Fatherless Girls

(Or, how to become a writer like Tennessee Williams)


Don’t ever leave your daughter if you have one.  This memoir has bookends now.  I was in several deep conversations yesterday about my father and my uncle Spence.  My mother and her damn lies.  These are scars across the landscape of my life right now as I go backwards.  And backwards.

My brother and I.

Don Brown and Jo Brown wedding in Pasadena -- PARENTS
Don Brown and Jo Brown wedding in Pasadena — PARENTS

I think that the parents in my generation were not prepared to be actual parents.  It’s very hard to put my mother in any kind of perspective right now.  She passed away in 2002 and so it is 12 years exactly.

My father started off shooting SURFING FILMS and this is 1959 in Pasadena.

By 1970 he would be out of my life forever, and it was her doing.

I have all their love letters.  I saved them after she passed away, and when I was a little girl I read all of them.  I was only eight years old.

Kids are just inquisitive.

I could read very easily at that age.

I think all my life I had to be defended against really looking deeply at Mother.

Not anymore.

self portrait as a young writer
self portrait as a young writer


They were fighting all the time by the time I was nine.

She had an affair when he was over in Hawaii shooting his surfing stuff.

How would you like to be nine, and know too much.  Far too much.

It’s really hard being a big sister if your parents are splitting up.


So anyway finding all his surfing stuff.  In 2014.    Years later.  It’s like coming home.



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