How Were You Shaped By Your Childhood?

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.

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less