It’s sometimes disappointing to see someone you admire in person. They might be cold, snobby, or far shorter than you imagined. At her reading at Bookworks here in Albuquerque, Emily Rapp was none of these things. She was funny, kind, generous, humble and interesting. Her heartbreaking and exquisitely moving new book, The Still Point of the Turning World, is about her son’s diagnosis at nine months old with Tay Sachs disease, a rare and always fatal degenerative disorder. The book is gorgeous and sad, and asks some really important questions about what it means to be a good parent.
What most impressed me about the reading was Emily’s great talent for answering sometimes tough, sometimes confusing, and sometimes really interesting questions. One question that really seemed to please Emily, was what she learned from a craft perspective through writing this book. Her answer was long and included an anecdote about finishing the book in two weeks while she was in Spain. But she also talked about how she typically writes a huge amount, and how this book was, at one point, over 500 pages (now right around 250). So it also became an exercise in cutting things down, editing, and working collaboratively with her editor (which included her fighting for some things and losing (comic book references). And fighting for other things and winning (the ending)).
There was also a question that I thought would have been tough to answer. It was about why she wrote this book. She began by telling more stories about the process of it. Some were funny stories, some were sad. But then she got really serious. Her previous memoir, Poster Child, is about living with a disability. She talked about how people would always ask her questions about her disability. So finally, she wrote a book so she could answer those questions. “A common misconception about people that write memoir,” Rapp said, “is that we want everyone to know our business. But I don’t think that’s true. I think memoir writers are really private people who are tired of people always asking them questions.” She went on to explain, “I wrote this book so I can say to people who ask questions about Ronan, here you go, this is for you. But this is only half the story. And the rest of it, that’s for me. That’s mine.”