Why I Wrote The Rules of Inheritance
By Claire Bidwell Smith on March 13, 2012
BlogHer Original Post
In some ways I began writing this book a long time ago. I’ve always been a writer, ever since I was a little girl. Putting pen to paper, and later fingertips to a keyboard, is something I’ve always gravitated towards. When my mother died when I was eighteen, I had no idea how to process the loss, and so I turned to writing. It was the only way I could make sense of my new world, the one in which I was a girl without a mother.
But really The Rules of Inheritance was really born out of my time working as a grief counselor for hospice in my early thirties. I went into that job thinking I knew a lot about grief, that my own personal experience and my training as a counselor had given me an adequate picture of what it meant to lose someone, and then I realized I had only seen a sliver of it all. After working with people who had lost all combinations of loved ones, I had such a broader understanding of grief and death.
I began this book with the intention of writing about what I had learned about grief. In the beginning I didn’t intend for it to be as personal as it is, but then I realized that the best way to impart my knowledge was through my own experience. When I was traveling my own journey of grief I read a lot of memoirs, and with each one I felt a little less alone. I knew that if I wanted to give the same gift back to readers, then I would have to be a forthcoming as possible about my own experience.
In The Rules of Inheritance I write a lot about boys and sex and travel and drinking. At first it was daunting to think about putting those truths out there in the world, but then I realized that this book would never be complete unless I really embraced ALL the aspects of my journey, and those things – the boys and sex and traveling and drinking – were part of that. Ultimately, I think my honesty about such experiences are what make the book more relatable. At least, I hope so.
Really, The Rules of Inheritance isn’t just a book about grief, but rather it’s a book about coming of age, it’s about a young woman trying to uncover her identity within a lot of turmoil and confusion. I think all young people go through a time in their lives when they are searching for their identity in the shadow of their parents, whether or not their parents are alive. We all must strive to figure out who we are with or without them, and in that way, I think my story is a universal one.
I’m so grateful to everyone who has read the book and told me that they’ve seen a little bit of themselves in it. That’s all I could have ever hoped for.
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