This is a very good story

Original Poster
Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 16241
You should read this story because it's really good. Unfortunately the author died a few months ago, but he had been trying to write it for years. It's easy to see why it took so long. I can't imagine the pain writing something this personal and shameful could unleash.

My Family's Slave

"She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was."
May 17, 2017 2:26 AM
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Fantastic read. Thanks for sharing.
May 17, 2017 2:53 AM
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I saw this on FB but I only read it just now. It made me cry.
May 17, 2017 2:55 AM
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ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.
May 17, 2017 2:56 AM
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Bigwig
ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.

There are a lot of unbearable parts of this story but could you imagine having to reconcile the general idea your mother was a decent, normal person with the fact she owned a slave? Or that you, too, had to continue to own a slave after she died? He inherited a human being, basically. Someone he loved and unknowingly-- then knowingly-- exploited. I'd be a huge mess.
May 17, 2017 3:00 AM
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Meow
Bigwig
ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.

There are a lot of unbearable parts of this story but could you imagine having to reconcile the general idea your mother was a decent, normal person with the fact she owned a slave? Or that you, too, had to continue to own a slave after she died? He inherited a human being, basically. Someone he loved and unknowingly-- then knowingly-- exploited. I'd be a huge mess.

I'm actually having a text conversation with a female friend of mine about this right now. My friend is VERY critical of the author. I am, as well, but I think part of me is softened by the fact that he's sort of admitting to shameful acts on his own part. My friend is angry about how the author is being treated as a sympathetic character. I haven't seen any reaction elsewhere so I can't comment.
May 17, 2017 3:11 AM
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I read the article this morning and contemplated starting a thread on it. It is indeed really good.

I avoided looking at online discussion of it to this point because I was worried about reading a deluge of leftist critics with poor reading comprehension skills crushing the author.

May 17, 2017 3:18 AM
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What I found most interesting is Lola's life lived in THIS country, in these times. But I guess a lot of the reaction is about the author.
May 17, 2017 3:21 AM
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Esoteric AllusionI read the article this morning and contemplated starting a thread on it. It is indeed really good.

I avoided looking at online discussion of it to this point because I was worried about reading a deluge of leftist critics with poor reading comprehension skills crushing the author.

I read a lot of that. I think some of it is warranted.
May 17, 2017 3:23 AM
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Bigwig
Meow
Bigwig
ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.

There are a lot of unbearable parts of this story but could you imagine having to reconcile the general idea your mother was a decent, normal person with the fact she owned a slave? Or that you, too, had to continue to own a slave after she died? He inherited a human being, basically. Someone he loved and unknowingly-- then knowingly-- exploited. I'd be a huge mess.

I'm actually having a text conversation with a female friend of mine about this right now. My friend is VERY critical of the author. I am, as well, but I think part of me is softened by the fact that he's sort of admitting to shameful acts on his own part. My friend is angry about how the author is being treated as a sympathetic character. I haven't seen any reaction elsewhere so I can't comment.

I learned in grad school that the proper way to construct a memoir-like piece is to indict yourself first and then move out from that initial confession-- your failing gives you a way to frame the failings of others. It's what he's doing here, basically. It's a way to build trust with readers and ultimately sympathy if you can initially explain your actions. Then you complicate that sympathy later on once you've built out enough context-- it's all structure. Basically, generating sympathy for the author is inherent in the format because modulating it is what gives the story momentum. I think he does a good job too, because I do understand his position and sorta sympathize, as much as anyone could sympathize with a slave owner no matter how reluctant or remorseful. Some people may not buy the first part and then it all crumbles. Again, it's easy to see why this took years to write.
May 17, 2017 3:24 AM
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Infinitus Corsair
Esoteric AllusionI read the article this morning and contemplated starting a thread on it. It is indeed really good.

I avoided looking at online discussion of it to this point because I was worried about reading a deluge of leftist critics with poor reading comprehension skills crushing the author.

I read a lot of that. I think some of it is warranted.

I do, too. It just wasn't my main takeaway from the story.
May 17, 2017 3:25 AM
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Joined: Nov 2002
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Meow
Bigwig
ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.

There are a lot of unbearable parts of this story but could you imagine having to reconcile the general idea your mother was a decent, normal person with the fact she owned a slave? Or that you, too, had to continue to own a slave after she died? He inherited a human being, basically. Someone he loved and unknowingly-- then knowingly-- exploited. I'd be a huge mess.

Not just that she owned a slave, but that she treated the slave with cruelty and and indifference to her humanity.

The piece paints a vivid picture of what I imagine was a common slave relationship in the antebellum south, but the different, more recent cultural context makes it feel more alive. My most basic reaction to the article is, "Yeah, that's what slavery does to people," but the author carefully layers in information that allows you to see all the complexities and ugliness so clearly.
May 17, 2017 3:25 AM
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Bigwig
Meow
Bigwig
ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.

There are a lot of unbearable parts of this story but could you imagine having to reconcile the general idea your mother was a decent, normal person with the fact she owned a slave? Or that you, too, had to continue to own a slave after she died? He inherited a human being, basically. Someone he loved and unknowingly-- then knowingly-- exploited. I'd be a huge mess.

I'm actually having a text conversation with a female friend of mine about this right now. My friend is VERY critical of the author. I am, as well, but I think part of me is softened by the fact that he's sort of admitting to shameful acts on his own part. My friend is angry about how the author is being treated as a sympathetic character. I haven't seen any reaction elsewhere so I can't comment.

Simply acknowledging an obvious moral truth is a pretty cheap price for sympathy.
May 17, 2017 3:27 AM
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Joined: Aug 2003
Posts: 63004
Meow
Bigwig
Meow
Bigwig
ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.

There are a lot of unbearable parts of this story but could you imagine having to reconcile the general idea your mother was a decent, normal person with the fact she owned a slave? Or that you, too, had to continue to own a slave after she died? He inherited a human being, basically. Someone he loved and unknowingly-- then knowingly-- exploited. I'd be a huge mess.

I'm actually having a text conversation with a female friend of mine about this right now. My friend is VERY critical of the author. I am, as well, but I think part of me is softened by the fact that he's sort of admitting to shameful acts on his own part. My friend is angry about how the author is being treated as a sympathetic character. I haven't seen any reaction elsewhere so I can't comment.

I learned in grad school that the proper way to construct a memoir-like piece is to indict yourself first and then move out from that initial confession-- your failing gives you a way to frame the failings of others. It's what he's doing here, basically. It's a way to build trust with readers and ultimately sympathy if you can initially explain your actions. Then you complicate that sympathy later on once you've built out enough context-- it's all structure. Basically, generating sympathy for the author is inherent in the format because modulating it is what gives the story momentum. I think he does a good job too, because I do understand his position and sorta sympathize, as much as anyone could sympathize with a slave owner no matter how reluctant or remorseful.

There's a cultural aspect at play here as well. I was born and raised in America by parents who were also born and raised in America. I wasn't in a household that scolded you for questioning authority or cultural norms.

Alex Tizon's whole experience as an American and his family life is completely different, and it certainly affected his relationship with Lola and his willingness to right a wrong he identified at a young age.
May 17, 2017 3:31 AM
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Joined: Aug 2003
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Infinitus Corsair
Bigwig
Meow
Bigwig
ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.

There are a lot of unbearable parts of this story but could you imagine having to reconcile the general idea your mother was a decent, normal person with the fact she owned a slave? Or that you, too, had to continue to own a slave after she died? He inherited a human being, basically. Someone he loved and unknowingly-- then knowingly-- exploited. I'd be a huge mess.

I'm actually having a text conversation with a female friend of mine about this right now. My friend is VERY critical of the author. I am, as well, but I think part of me is softened by the fact that he's sort of admitting to shameful acts on his own part. My friend is angry about how the author is being treated as a sympathetic character. I haven't seen any reaction elsewhere so I can't comment.

Simply acknowledging an obvious moral truth is a pretty cheap price for sympathy.

I agree. To be clear, that's not what I'm saying.
May 17, 2017 3:32 AM
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Bigwig
Meow
Bigwig
Meow
Bigwig
ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.

There are a lot of unbearable parts of this story but could you imagine having to reconcile the general idea your mother was a decent, normal person with the fact she owned a slave? Or that you, too, had to continue to own a slave after she died? He inherited a human being, basically. Someone he loved and unknowingly-- then knowingly-- exploited. I'd be a huge mess.

I'm actually having a text conversation with a female friend of mine about this right now. My friend is VERY critical of the author. I am, as well, but I think part of me is softened by the fact that he's sort of admitting to shameful acts on his own part. My friend is angry about how the author is being treated as a sympathetic character. I haven't seen any reaction elsewhere so I can't comment.

I learned in grad school that the proper way to construct a memoir-like piece is to indict yourself first and then move out from that initial confession-- your failing gives you a way to frame the failings of others. It's what he's doing here, basically. It's a way to build trust with readers and ultimately sympathy if you can initially explain your actions. Then you complicate that sympathy later on once you've built out enough context-- it's all structure. Basically, generating sympathy for the author is inherent in the format because modulating it is what gives the story momentum. I think he does a good job too, because I do understand his position and sorta sympathize, as much as anyone could sympathize with a slave owner no matter how reluctant or remorseful.

There's a cultural aspect at play here as well. I was born and raised in America by parents who were also born and raised in America. I wasn't in a household that scolded you for questioning authority or cultural norms.

Alex Tizon's whole experience as an American and his family life is completely different, and it certainly affected his relationship with Lola and his willingness to right a wrong he identified at a young age.

Yeah, he realizes at a young age what was happening was wrong, but he frames it in a way people recognize-- most of us realize something about our family / upbringing that may not be normal when we hit that age. Usually it's not something this fucked up. He's a kid, so what can he really do? He grows more complicit as he gets older and we learn about his family. When it comes to freeing this woman or keeping his family out of serious trouble, he goes with keeping his fucked up family together. I can follow his reasoning, but I'd like to think if I were in his position, ya know, I'd be calling the cops ASAP at age 4.
May 17, 2017 3:36 AM
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It's a completely different kind of story, but David Sedaris wrote a piece on the suicide of his sister where he comes across selfish, self-important, and smug. At points, it's almost unbearable for me to read that essay. Sedaris wrote that essay containing enough facts for me to draw that conclusion, though. I interpret the essay as intentionally self-critical. Even if it is not, he's deliberately left enough breadcrumbs for the reader to pick up on faults in him, his relationships, and his reactions to his sister's death.

I read the author of this piece in a similar way. I think some negative thoughts towards the author are warranted, but I also think he's leaving breadcrumbs on the ground for you to find your way to that position. I do not at all read the piece as "Please feel bad for me for this whole slavery thing."
May 17, 2017 3:36 AM
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Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 12252
Meow
Bigwig
Meow
Bigwig
Meow
Bigwig
ZubenI saw this on FB ?but I only read it just now. It made me cry.

Me too. Still teary eyed.

There are a lot of unbearable parts of this story but could you imagine having to reconcile the general idea your mother was a decent, normal person with the fact she owned a slave? Or that you, too, had to continue to own a slave after she died? He inherited a human being, basically. Someone he loved and unknowingly-- then knowingly-- exploited. I'd be a huge mess.

I'm actually having a text conversation with a female friend of mine about this right now. My friend is VERY critical of the author. I am, as well, but I think part of me is softened by the fact that he's sort of admitting to shameful acts on his own part. My friend is angry about how the author is being treated as a sympathetic character. I haven't seen any reaction elsewhere so I can't comment.

I learned in grad school that the proper way to construct a memoir-like piece is to indict yourself first and then move out from that initial confession-- your failing gives you a way to frame the failings of others. It's what he's doing here, basically. It's a way to build trust with readers and ultimately sympathy if you can initially explain your actions. Then you complicate that sympathy later on once you've built out enough context-- it's all structure. Basically, generating sympathy for the author is inherent in the format because modulating it is what gives the story momentum. I think he does a good job too, because I do understand his position and sorta sympathize, as much as anyone could sympathize with a slave owner no matter how reluctant or remorseful.

There's a cultural aspect at play here as well. I was born and raised in America by parents who were also born and raised in America. I wasn't in a household that scolded you for questioning authority or cultural norms.

Alex Tizon's whole experience as an American and his family life is completely different, and it certainly affected his relationship with Lola and his willingness to right a wrong he identified at a young age.

Yeah, he realizes at a young age what was happening was wrong, but he frames it in a way people recognize-- most of us realize something about our family / upbringing that may not be normal when we hit that age. Usually it's not something this fucked up. He's a kid, so what can he really do? He grows more complicit as he gets older and we learn about his family. When it comes to freeing this woman or keeping his family out of serious trouble, he goes with keeping his fucked up family together. I can follow his reasoning, but I'd like to think if I were in his position, ya know, I'd be calling the cops ASAP at age 4.

I think it's reasonable to acknowledge the immense psychological conflict he must have experienced growing up and being unable to conceive of destroying his fucked-up family. But there is a long gap between him becoming an adult and when he made his effort to care for Lola in his 40s when his complicity becomes undeniable as the last good years of Lola's life slipped away.
May 17, 2017 3:42 AM
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I think if you're going to identify Tizon's biggest failing, it's that point where as a financially independent adult he allowed Lola to bear the responsibility of caring for his aging and dying mother. A sort of 'let her handle it' approach.
May 17, 2017 3:45 AM
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Esoteric AllusionIt's a completely different kind of story, but David Sedaris wrote a piece on the suicide of his sister where he comes across selfish, self-important, and smug. At points, it's almost unbearable for me to read that essay. Sedaris wrote that essay containing enough facts for me to draw that conclusion, though. I interpret the essay as intentionally self-critical. Even if it is not, he's deliberately left enough breadcrumbs for the reader to pick up on faults in him, his relationships, and his reactions to his sister's death.

I read the author of this piece in a similar way. I think some negative thoughts towards the author are warranted, but I also think he's leaving breadcrumbs on the ground for you to find your way to that position. I do not at all read the piece as "Please feel bad for me for this whole slavery thing."

No, that would e a terrible reading. He attempts to center Lola and is not shy about sharing the bare facts, which are unkind to his entire family. The question is whether he adequately understood and accepted his role in the crime perpetrated against Lola--whether his behavior over the course of 30 or so years warrants a level of criticism that he seems unaware of in this piece.
May 17, 2017 3:46 AM
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