Wednesday, April 30, 2008

They deserve to be remembered

After reading the copyedited manuscript, it occurred to me why I wrote THE BODY IN THE RECORD ROOM. Over at least one hundred years (approximately 1870-1970) there were tens-of-thousands of people, probably hundreds-of-thousands of people, confined to state mental hospitals across the United States. Whatever the evils (and goods) in those institutions, the people who resided in them deserve to be remembered.

Within the last year I went back and looked at the cemetery of the hospital where I grew up. It was fenced and locked. It had not been mowed. I doubt there had been a memorial service remembering those buried there for many years.

The people I grew up with (and those who came before and after) deserve to be remembered.

I have a lot of interests. My book reflects those interests. The interests include abuse (spouse and child abuse), especially that occurring in the church or condoned by the church; the fair treatment of GLBT people; and the way Christian people such as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans can make an impact, even on those like my Roy Rogers who is alienated from the faith. But if there is a single driving force behind this book, it is the desire for all those people in all those mental hospitals not be forgotten. They lived and breathed and made a difference. My story is just fiction, but one thing it says is that those people in those hospitals were human beings. Many of them were good and moral people, as good and moral as you will find anywhere.

After having read my copyedited manuscript, I'm aware my own book is not perfect. It was the best I could make it at the time I wrote it two years ago. I worry about its errors and even the grammar in it, but I also know it is what it is because it is the way I could hold up left-out people. These people's stories deserved to be told. As fictional as my characters are, to me they represent a whole range of left-out people whose stories need to be revived.

So why did I write THE BODY IN THE RECORD ROOM? Because a group of friends changed my life. Those friends happened to be housed in a particular mental institution more than fifty years ago. They deserve to be remembered.

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