“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” –Tolstoy
I grew up in a neighborhood of not-big houses on small lots. Most of the houses had families – some with older kids, some with younger, some grown-and-flew-the-coop kids who came back to visit on holidays.
It was a very Norman Rockwell childhood: Mom and Dad, brother and sister, dog and cat, assorted gerbils, lizards, fish, and more. Visitors – neighbors, neighborhood kids, family members – streamed in and out. The door was always open. There were almost always cookies in the big black kettle on the kitchen counter.
We had books. Lots of books. My family read. We read together, we read alone, and quite often we all sat in the living room and read our own books. We talked. I come from a long line of talkers: raconteurs, storytellers, anecdotalists, slingers of hooey. We argued, we discussed, we shouted, and sometimes we pounded our fists or stamped our feet to be heard. My family laughed. Because happy families laugh.
I was in college before I realized that not everyone had the same happy childhood that I took for granted. I was much older when I found out that some of the kids from my neighborhood lived in homes where there was violence or abuse or drinking – all manner of unhappiness and dysfunction.
Family memoirs come in all shapes and sizes. Take a look at these booklists for tales of families experiencing a myriad of challenges: