On Thursday, Nov. 4, over a dozen students, educators and writers gathered over Zoom for a reading by Amy Butcher and Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing Ira Sukrungruang, who read and discussed their recently launched memoirs, Mothertrucker: Finding Joy in the Loneliest Road in America and This Jade World, respectively.
Both writers read their excerpts with craftful cadence and considerable vulnerability. Mothertrucker — which Butcher wrote when she struggled with domestic violence — is a raw yet life-affirming meditation on abuse, female friendships and fear, in an American society where relationship violence is all too common. Butcher explored these themes through her journey with Joy “Mothertrucker” Wiebe, a female ice-road trucker, across the dangerous James W. Dalton Highway in Alaska. Butcher justified the raw honesty about her inner turmoil and abuse in her memoir as necessary. “You owe the reader your vulnerability,” she said.
Vulnerability is equally important to Sukrungruang’s work. The best way to write a memoir, he says, is to “just rip the bandage off.” Sukrungruang’s This Jade World is an exercise in self-reflection, forgiveness and healing, as it explores his downward spiral after his divorce from his first wife of 12 years.
Sukrungruang does not hold back in his memoir. His writing is unabashedly honest. In his excerpt, he even recounts a time his Aunt Sue asked if he could make his ex-wife climax.
But why write about something so personal, and potentially embarrassing? Sukrungruang said he had to, as it helped him to process and move forward from a difficult time in his past.
After the reading concluded, audience members asked questions about how to explore trauma and other difficult subjects in their own writing and how to finish their own memoirs. “Sit with your work,” Butcher said. “Give yourself the time.”
Sukrungruang nodded in agreement. “Writers are their own worst enemies, especially when writing something hard,” he said.
Even so, he does not worry about finding his voice. “I don’t think of it as singular,” he said. “It’s not how I create a voice, but which of my voices need to be in this piece right now.”