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Having signed a pact to tell the emotional truth in my memoir, I headed into what was, essentially, a cobbling job.  In writing the memoir, all I had to work with were remnants of the truth.  Scraps of odd-shaped, ripped leather in a dusty bin at the back of the shop.  Each section written by the memoirist begins with a memory fragment: one of Nabokov’s “bright blocks of perception.”  But it is all a swirl: the rustling of a hidden Chinese dissident, a snake in a Taiwanese garden, a revolver at the embassy in The Hague, bags of tangerine-mikan on a Japanese train to a hospital—these were the fragments with which I made my memoir.  If I’d stuck to actual, absolutely clear sensory memories, the book might have been a mere thirty-five pages long.

Memoir writing, for me, is the same as the cobbler’s art: a stitching together of what one has been told, what one knows, and imagination.  With shreds of fabric, leather, and string, one fashions a pair of boots to walk in.

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