One school of thought would agree with Frank McCourt whose memoir Angela’s Ashes won a Pulitzer Prize. He said, “You can’t write an effective memoir if you’re worried about family and friends looking over your shoulder. Even if the truth hurts, if it is truthful, then there’s no other way to present it.” It’s your story. Tell it like it is (or was).
We advise that you do talk to relatives to learn whether issues are really as controversial as they may seem. Often they aren’t.
Memoirist Diana Kupperman, founder of Welcome Table Press, discovered such an untold story of her grandmother’s. With some trepidation she approached her father. His reaction was, “After all these years, what does it matter?”
Tina Kisil, author of the memoir Footprints in the Rice Paddy, writing in Quill Magazine, April-June, 2010 told the story of “...a celebrity who [used a pseudonym when she] wrote unflatteringly about a man who had slighted her. The man read her memoir and with self-righteous indignation told the writer: “You could have at least written my real name!”
If you are worried about stories you want to include in your own memoir or family history a quick conversation with family members may help put you at ease about your concerns.
Of course, sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s a topic for another post.