My Mother’s Memoir, My Father’s Lie, and Other True Stories

Every individual is prone to committing inconsistencies and irregularities where relating certain experiences and the interpretation of realities which occurred to them are concerned, whether or not they purposely embellish or discount certain details behind. Reality takes on various forms, the concept of ‘truth’ is subjective, and both elements equally vary and translate themselves differently from one individual to the next.

In the writer Russel Banks ironically titled short story, “My Mother’s Memoir, My Father’s Lie, and Other True Stories” the aforementioned sentiment or reality is effectively affirmed or reinforced. The premise of Banks’ seemingly autobiographical short story centers on a young man’s attempt to understand the past lives of his parents, whose histories appear to be shaped by fabled and fantasy-inspired circumstances and turn of events which his parents desperately cling to.The young man, Earl Painter, begins recounting the extent of the short story by pronouncing, perhaps as a disclaimer, “My mother tells me stories about her past, and I don’t believe them, I interpret them… ” (Banks). The extent of the short narrative relates just as the title connotes, and just as the narrator seemingly promises; an ‘interpretation’ of his parent’s histories, told in a manner which presents its readers distinctive portraits, or pehaps, a creative psychological analysis of the brief histories and “true stories” of the storyteller’s parents.

After relating his father’s weak and obviously fictional stories, which the author less than endearingly refers to at the title of the story as a blatant and collective “lie”; and after communicating his mother’s disappointed or hopeless reminisces of nearly being married to a famous movie celebrity, and almost being crowned for a national beauty pageant contest; the narrator culminates his narrative by underlining what appears as though a particularly pointless story told by his mother in one of his visits.But instead of the usual far fetched and seemingly overblown and equally embellished stories or ‘memoirs’ Earl’s mother relates to him, what she proceeds to relate is the story of a less than extraordinary, perhaps even dull, and apparently troubled young man whom she met at a restaurant. When the narrator asks his mother what the story was about, she hesitates, and replies, “Nothing I guess. What the narrator, and ultimately, the author, Russel Banks was likely trying to explore, and maybe even effectively evincing in My Mother’s Memoir, My Father’s Lie, and Other True Stories is that every individual is predisposed to recounting experiences, whether or not they appear to be fact or fiction, and that storytelling is inherent to humanity, be it truth or false.This simple reality is evident in the hopeless reminisces of Earl’s mother, in the fabled fictions, or to put it bluntly: lies of his father, and to Earl himself, in his recounting of his parent’s histories and past lives, to make meaning of his. Stories underline the reality of humanity’s inherent need to be heard; and by relating experiences, fact or fiction, they do.


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