Personal Space: Maggie Downs Thought No One Wanted to Read About Grief
The Author of Braver Than You Think Talks to Sari Botton
On this episode of Personal Space: The Memoir Show, Sari Botton interviews Maggie Downs, author of the memoir and travelogue, Braver Than You Think: Around the World On the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime about the year she spent traveling around the world, fulfilling many of her mother’s unmet wishes as she was dying of Alzheimer’s. Please consider purchasing the book from your local bookstore, or through Bookshop.
From the episode:
Sari Botton: You do a wonderful job of braiding two narratives: the story of your mother’s decline and passing, and your journey around much of the world to see and experience all that your mother couldn’t. Was that difficult to achieve?
Maggie Downs: When I first started writing the book, I focused mostly on the travel narrative because I thought that was the most exciting part, the part most people would want to read — the trekking, the whitewater rafting down the Nile, hiking to see endangered gorillas. That was the most palatable to me. I thought, nobody wants to read about grief, nobody wants to read about a very sad disease. I was getting my MFA and working closely with Emily Rapp, my mentor. She wrote two great memoirs, The Still Point of the Turning World and Poster Child, and she was the one who really encouraged me to bring out this thread of my mom and why I was doing the trip. And in retrospect, the first draft of my book was really soulless, because you didn’t see what was driving me to make these decisions. And there was really no heart to it. But once I started to pull out my mother’s story, it became much fuller.