The Kate Story

My sister Kate (1962-1999), a loving, funny, and charismatic woman with a strong sense of determination, was struck down by breast cancer at a much too early age, when she was just finding her way in the world. She was also afflicted by an injury, at birth, that selectively damaged her brain, resulting in developmental, cognitive impairments alongside an otherwise perfectly functioning emotional psyche.

Kate and I in '88 (I look older now.)

Kate and I in ’88 (I look older now.)

What she taught me could fill a book, and writing that book is a high priority. I think her story would be highly instructive, and I hope that my telling of it, conveying the imprint of her extraordinary life on my own, would help to illuminate that story.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

After a good long time, this book, now entitled The Song of Kate Elizabeth, now actually exists as a printed draft of 20 chapters and 425 single-spaced pages (whew) that cover grief, disabilities, siblings, families, mothers who are loving but happen to be profoundly mentally ill, the creative process, race, IQ, intelligence, humor, memory, imagination, music, survival, hierarchy, normality, self-respect, bodily attributes, the divine, and then some.

I’ve shared the “Song” with a few people, and now I’m in the process of workshopping it, “socializing” it, as it were.

If you are among those individuals who have read it, please use the comment box below to share any thoughts. If you are like most people, well, this is how it begins, and here is an excerpt from the middle; I’d be grateful to hear any thoughts you might have as well.

One question I have for all of you is, would you call this:

  • A memoir with fictitious elements and devices, or
  • Fiction with true-story elements?

One small (true) scene from it was published in Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. For more excerpts and other updates, see my Kate Story blog posts.

If you have any questions about this project that you don’t feel like posting here, just ask.

3 comments to The Kate Story

  • Tom O’Leary

    Dave I spent most of the past week life-soaring with you and Kate. The trip was wonder-filled and very hard to see end. Today as I finished I knew there would be a sense of loss tomorrow. Your style, your sense of significant detail and ability to balance and weave point-of-view never let me drift. It is one thing to have a good command of writing but quite another to create an unique universe so accessible and clear. I love your mind. Not just the powerful human compassions it creates but the magnificent creativity of imagination you can spin.

  • Susan Tauber

    Beautifully written book about a brothers love and compassion for his sister who has a developmental disability and is coping with his mother who has bipolar disorder. The story unfolds through a series of time travels to “the well” and which made me both laugh and cry. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has experienced growing up in a multi challenged household or know someone who has done so. It is anything but depressing – if anything it proved to be the foundation for a very talented gentle man to emerge I loved every minute I spent reading Kate’s Story.

  • Traveling between your actual memories and the magical elements you introduced along the way, kept me eagerly engaged from start to finish.

    You managed to tell a very personal story while linking to important, universal concepts. For example, when you wrote specifically about how the “enemies” think of and treat people with disabilities, I know that the same is true for any (perceived) powerless individuals or groups. Most decent people can relate to the idea that oppression of the weak is barbaric.

    As someone who consumes non-fiction almost exclusively, I’m inspired to seek out and invest more time reading fiction. I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of how stories based on truth can have a greater impact on me through the use of beautiful literary vehicles.

    I enjoyed every moment of my experience reading “The Song of Kate Elizabeth.” I would definitely call it a memoir with fictitious elements and devices.

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