Finally, at the end of the day, I wrote a memoir to claim my small, rightful portion of the globe: To claim my bit of air time, to claim a place for my bare feet on the dirt—something that was tenuous in my growing up. I wrote to claim the standing-space my father the spy didn’t, because he walked so lightly, and in the shadows.
I wrote this memoir because—due to the sediments of my particular psyche—I’d spent years searching other people’s roots, rather than my own. As a “diplomat’s daughter,” (“diplomat” was my father’s cover), I was trained to be humble, to—out of respect for other cultures—put other people’s experience above my own. And later, as an anthropologist, to bring into focus my curiosity about the other, using myself only as conduit. I’ve written two books in honor of people of other cultures—Argentine sheep ranchers and French artisans—acts coming from my pleasure and belief in recording the struggles and strengths of ordinary man.
I wrote my memoir, by way of balance. Montaigne asserted, “Every man bears the entire form of human nature.” Nabokov—complementarily—wrote that each life has “an intricate watermark whose unique design becomes visible when the lamp of art is made to shine through life’s foolscap.” I wrote my story in an effort to convince myself that I, too, was an ordinary fool, a member of that human race whose watermark was as worthy of tracing as any other.
So, there I sat, at my table, all alone, writing. It could seem a bare life, but as I said above, I was a queen at home among riches—the riches of memory. I wrote in order to fill my sack with gold coins—and then, to move on. Toward the horizon, into the future.