As is probably the case with everyone on the face of the planet, I am in part a product of people, places, and events I had no say in–the well-meaning choices my parents made in raising me combined with the coincidences common to any life.
But each of us is also touched, if ever so subtly, by fading echoes from a past that predates our own arrival here. These aftershocks, emanating as if from our own personal Big Bang, continue bumping into us over the course of our lives, like waves hitting a boat in a harbor.
They may rock us so gently we don’t even notice, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t pushed us in one direction or the other, perhaps toward shore, perhaps away.
Sometimes in and out. Up and down. Back and forth. It can almost make you seasick.
My mother disturbed the waters a bit herself. Born along with the Great Depression in 1929, she grew up in a gritty steel town in the industrial northeast, heir to what was at that time the stigma of being Italian-American. Over and over she attempted to escape life’s circumstances, usually on the fastest speedboat leaving the dock, and the waves she made seem to rock me to this day.
And yet I’m coming to believe I can’t parse good and bad in my inheritance. That same DNA that makes me an accomplished escape artist also encodes me with an urge to write, and I couldn’t shake it off if I wanted to.
So my writing is my attempt to examine it all, to understand what happened to the people I loved, to make the stories make sense.
– James Michael Starr