“Thank you, thank you, but I don’t deserve your applause. I’m just a woman with a story.”
On Wednesday January 13, I was lucky enough to have fourth row seats at the Meredith College Chapel where Jeanette Walls promoted her latest book, Half Broke Horses. She spent much of the evening, however, reflecting on her first book, The Glass Castle.
“The Glass Castle” tells the heartbreaking story of her childhood – much of which was lived in complete poverty. Though her parents loved and provided her with life lessons, they didn’t very well know how to raise a child, let alone three. She often went without food and new clothes through most of her adolescence.
Walls was very open and truthful about her life despite her heartbreaking story. She was vibrant and self-deprecating, which I believe made her seem less of a fictional character in the eyes of her readers.
When it came time for audience questions, Walls was not afraid to explain and open up about her relationship with her mother. Rose Mary Walls was a dreamer and chose to follow those dreams no matter the cost – even if the cost was impoverished children. Walls revealed her theory that she believes her mother was never meant to be a mother, and that she was really always more of a child and incapable of taking care of anyone.
I was lucky enough to be sitting behind a woman who had brought her high school yearbook with her to the chapel. Curious, I asked what she needed her yearbook for. She flipped to a page and pointed at a name: Jeanette Walls.
The woman was Kristi Shields Brewer, who was in seventh grade when Walls was in eleventh. When Brewer saw the town of Welch, VA mentioned in the memoir The Glass Castle, she looked through her yearbook and found Jeanette Walls pictured.
“As soon as I realized it was her [Walls], I tried to get in touch with her publisher to get in touch with her, but eventually I realized I just couldn’t get through. I teach a public speaking class at Meredith, so when I found out she was speaking here I got my ticket right away. I’m a little upset that I didn’t get her to sign my yearbook back in high school”. said Brewer.
At most events where there is a public speaker, I usually find myself bored or unengaged in what they are talking about. But when Walls spoke, I found myself hanging on every word, genuinely laughing at all of her jokes, and jumping up at the chance to have her sign my copy of “The Glass Castle”. She signed it:
“From one writer to another – always write the truth.”