At Home in the World is a meaningful glance into Joyce Maynard’s personal narrative. This account, if needed, will stimulate integrity, and bravery for writers in need of insight. Joyce, whom has a background filled with creative inspiration, was stifled from writing about it in an open and honest way. It was not until many years later, after weathering a dysfunctional family that included emotional abuse, alcoholism, eating disorders, and clinical depression, to spending a life-changing year, living, learning, and loving J.D. Salinger.
It is incredible how Joyce was able to develop, not only as a truthful writer but also as a woman, speaking honestly about the world, as well as being a part of it - despite JD Salinger. - JD wrote her a letter in response to her article published in The New York Times, telling her not to listen to any advice given her regarding her writing. However, he himself stood in the way of her becoming her own voice. She had to break away from him in order to start, if you will, her real life, as a writer with a voice of her own.
I myself, requested the article that started it all, in response to my request I received the article as well as an email from Joyce herself. She was kind and encouraging. I asked for her blessing to write this piece and she gave it willingly, reminding me not to write for anyone but myself and to write with courage and truth. Something JD definitely did not empower her to do. She had to conquer his strong hand in order to do this. Joyce has become the type of writer she had once hoped JD to be, an enriching piece of equipment in the world of writers rather than a dictator of prose and purpose. I respect Joyce for her courage.
Being completely honest with ourselves as humans is always a challenge, a curse really, to be truly forthcoming with our innermost thoughts and feelings, to share our success as well as our flaws in an open, unadulterated way. Sure, we all have our secrets, healthy most often, but the real question is how can a writer be successful in life if works they produce are false, fake, or bogus? I would venture to say, as in any station in this world, they would fail, both personally and professionally. A life of hiding how you really are, and your authentic experiences, is a life not worth sharing. Joyce admits herself, that the writing she did prior to At Home in the World was merely laced with truth, leaving the better part to fiction, masquerading as fact. This made me, regrettably, hesitant to read anything from her earlier work. JD wanted Joyce to write only superficially while discrediting her for it at the same time. Joyce herself wrote “…I had been holding on to secrets that kept me from understanding or explaining myself. I knew it was time at last to explore my story.” She had to overcome wanting and forcing herself to please everyone else and just tell ‘her’ story, not for anyone but herself.
Listening to ones inner voice, the response of our body, during times of uncertainty, is yet another amazing lesson to take from Joyce’s experience. Joyce’s body did not respond to JD’s constant attempts at sexual intercourse because emotionally he was not taking care of her.
Only after Joyce entered into a loving, kind, and healthy relationship did her heart open as well as her physical body. Through her life transformation and advancement, Joyce has been able to heal from her past and be able to let it go, in a spirited manner, with much opposition. A lesson all humans can walk away with and an even greater lesson for a writer to discover and endeavor to grasp.
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