How Were You Shaped By Your Childhood?
Andre Dubus III is an American writer of fiction and memoir. His 1999 novel House of Sand and Fog lounged for 20 weeks on The New York Times’s Bestseller List in 2000 and 2001 and became a feature film in 2003. His 2008, based-on-real-events novel The Garden of Last Days explores the final days of one of the 9/11 terrorists, who chose to spend them indulging in the sins of the West. His 2012 memoir Townie is a profound meditation on the nature of violence. Born in 1959, Dubus obtained his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Texas. Before succeeding as a writer, he worked odd jobs as a carpenter, bounty hunter, and bartender.
Question: How were you shaped by your childhood?
Andre Dubus III: Man, I grew up all over. My dad was a Marine and we were all, all four kids were born on a Marine base. And my parents divorced about nine years into the marriage, so I was about nine, and we were already kind of low income. My dad was making very little as a teacher and now his low income had to support two households and then it got worse. So we moved around a lot, probably moved two or three times a year all through my childhood. Went to a lot of schools, was the new kid in town. And you know, there are a lot worse childhoods, you know, I didn't grow up in the ghetto with guns blazing, you know, I didn't grow up in a third world country starving, but it was not a stable childhood and I think that shaped me a way that I wouldn't have known until I'd gotten older. But you know, there was a lot of violence and there was a lot of — it was just kind of a wild childhood, honestly. I've been trying to write about it for years and I haven't quite found out how to do it.
Question: What was the town you liked best as a kid?
Andre Dubus III: That's a great question. I've never been asked that. Well, you know, what, here's the thing, man. We all-- over half of our families end in divorce and we throw this term broken family around like we're discussing dentistry. It's a big deal. So to answer your question, my favorite place was the one that we lived in right before my parents split up and I think because it felt like a happy home. You know. And it was; it was a rented house out in the woods and it was a good life there, in New Hampshire, just a little rented house out in the woods and we played in the woods and it was a good time. About 1968. Of course there was all this tumult going on outside in the world. I feel shaped by that, too. My memory of my childhood is one about good men getting shot in the head. You know, I remember all of the assassinations, and you know, unlike this war, you know, we saw bodies on TV every night, with the Vietnam War. I think we should be seeing bodies on TV every night now, too. Yeah. That's some of where I come from, that time.
Recorded on: 6/11/08
A myriad of hometowns and childhood experiences feed the writing of Andre Dubus.
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