Angela Palm is the author of Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir, and how did writing it affect the way you thought about your life and about your childhood neighbor Corey, who is serving a life sentence for murder?--Marshal Zeringue
A: I spent my 20s thinking nothing significant had ever really happened to me—nothing that was worth writing about. I also mistakenly believed, at that time, that young people’s stories didn’t much matter in the literary world.
When I began talking to people about my upbringing in rural Indiana, revisiting the memories of Corey and of our riverside neighborhood, I realized it was different than most people’s experiences. I began to write about the land itself—using the backdrop of place to inform the memories of that place and vice versa, seeing what epiphanies came from those marriages.
Corey—his life, our relationship, his crime—kept coming to the fore no matter how I tried to minimize it. I had never really dealt with the event in a way that put it to rest.
As I pulled together disparate essays to form a book, I did two things. I went to see Corey in prison—the first time I’d seen him since I was a teenager. I also made a list. An honest list noting every life decision I had made that was somehow connected to him.
The list was longer than I wanted to admit to myself. I let it guide me and embraced the haunting truth of the matter: I had loved a convicted murderer.
With that new truth, I looked back over the memories of us, and tried to balance my own sentimentality toward him with the more difficult realities of his crime and...[read on]