Tag Archives: Meredith Maran

Long-gone Berkeley landmarks form novel’s backdrop

Meredith Maran
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Berkeley may not equal Paris as a city of love, but it is the place where a lot of loving happens in Meredith Maran’s first novel, a Theory of Small Earthquakes.

The book is the story of Alison and Zoe, who meet at Oberlin College in 1983, fall in love, and eventually move to Berkeley.

They sort of choose the city by random, as evidenced by this snippet of dialogue:

“I’ve never even been to Berkeley. Have you?” asks Alison.

“I’ve seen pictures. Blue sky. Cute houses. Sit-ins at Sproul Plaza. An artist in every garret. What more do we need to know?” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school officials say gun incident handled properly

Berkeley High School. Photo: Charlotte Wayne
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Despite the concern of some parents that Berkeley school officials let the 15-year old who brought a gun to Berkeley High flee before he could be detained by police, that was the best way to handle the situation, according to Superintendent Bill Huyett.

School security officers don’t have the authority to physically detain kids, tackle them, or lock them in a room, he said. The only time they intervene physically is when there is a fight going on, he said.

“We are not law enforcement agents, so we don’t lock kids in rooms, ever,” Huyett said on Friday. “The thing that is most important is to ensure safety for all students. We do secure the suspected contraband. I’ve had kids flee on me [when he was a principal] and my advice is to not physically intervene with them.  I’ve always said, ‘Don’t give chase. Don’t physically entail. Turn it over to police.’”

The student was still at large Thursday evening, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley police department.

On Monday, the 15-year old freshman allegedly brought a gun to school in his backpack. School started at 10 am, and by 11 am school officials had heard from multiple sources that the student had gotten a gun.

While safety officials were looking inside the backpack, the student fled. By the time Berkeley police arrived, the student was no longer on school premises. … Continue reading »

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Book bares truth about false incest accusation

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Bay Area author Meredith Maran has been chronicling her life and the world around her since the mid 1990s. Her memoir, What It’s Like to Live Now, which was a Chronicle bestseller, and Notes From an Incomplete Revolution, detailed what it was like to come out as a lesbian, raise two sons in a marginal neighborhood, strive for social justice, and grapple with the successes and shortcomings of feminism.

Her 2001 book, Class Dismissed, is Maran’s in-depth look at Berkeley High, where she spent a year following three students from three different ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds. It remains an incisive look at an American high school grappling with sex, class, race, and the achievement gap.

But Maran’s tenth book may prove to be her most provocative – and controversial. My Lie: A True Story of False Memory, a searingly honest and remarkable memoir published today by Jossey-Bass/Wiley, tells the story of how, at the age of 37, Maran falsely accused her father of sexual abuse. Her volatile charges, made during the recovered memory movement, split her family apart, denied her children a relationship with their grandfather, and shaped Maran’s reality for more than a decade.

Years later, Maran realized she had made the whole tale up, and My Lie recounts how she reached out to her father and family for forgiveness. My Lie also attempts to make sense of the recovered memory movement that rocked the nation in the late 1980s and led to numerous high-profile trials, like the infamous McMartin preschool case. Maran discusses how a generation of feminists attempted to bring incest and sexual abuse out of the shadows and how some overly zealous prosecutors and therapists exploited the recovered memory phenomenon.

On Tuesday, September 22, Berkeley Arts & Letters will present an evening with Maran, San Francisco Chronicle Books Editor John McMurtrie, and Berkeley novelist Ayelet Waldman. The topic “How do we come to believe lies?” will begin at 7:30 pm at the Hillside Club. There will be a Prosecco/dessert reception after the talk.

Maran will also be on KQED Forum with Michael Krasny at 10 am on September 22.

Your story is so shocking and disturbing – a daughter realizes that her once-beloved father molested her, cuts off contact for a decade, and then realizes she had made the whole thing up. To tell this story, you must lay your faults and biases out for everyone to see, which must have been extremely difficult. Why did you decide to tell this story publicly and how hard is it to admit this lie?

I have a big mouth, and I’m a memoirist and essayist. Therefore, my faults, along with my gifts, are always on public display. I’m a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kinda gal. I like people who are the same way. Denial, obfuscation, withholding, dishonesty with self and/or others: not my favorite traits. And I can’t ask more from others than I ask from myself.

It actually felt — not good, exactly, but satisfying to explore this piece of my worst behavior, to come forward and say, I did this terrible thing and I’m doing my best now to understand why and to make amends where that’s possible. I’m a great believer in “be the change you want to see,” and admitting a wrong is a good place to start.

You write that as a young journalist you wrote extensively about incest and sexual abuse and that after a while this became the prism through which you saw the world.  How did immersing yourself in the “recovered memory” movement influence your thoughts about your father?

I’m a person who is publicly admitting to a huge mistake — not a saint. It’s profoundly tempting to blame the harm I caused on the mania of the times. There’s no question in my mind that absent the recovered memory craze, I wouldn’t have accused my father of molesting me. I’m almost equally certain that I would have come up with another way to blame my pain — and women’s pain — on men if that story hadn’t presented itself.

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