Patricia Grayhall is the author of the debut memoir Making the Rounds: Defying Norms in Love and Medicine. Her writing has appeared in Queer Forty and The Gay and Lesbian Review. Debutiful asked her to answer our recurring A Life of Books questionnaire so readers could get to know her.
Is there a book or series that, when you think back, helped define your childhood?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I identified with Scout, her feistiness, curiosity, and spirit. Her adventures with her friend Dill and her older brother Jem reminded me of mine with the boys in my neighborhood. I fervently wished I had a father like Atticus since mine was mostly depressed and unavailable.
I also loved those “orange biographies” familiar to baby boomers which were a fictionalized series known as the Childhood of Famous Americans created by the Bobbs-Merrill Co. and published primarily in the 1940s and 1950s for kids. I would often put one of them inside my textbook to read when I became bored in class. I understand they have updated them to get rid of some of the racism and sexism in the original versions.
Would you want any children in your life (yours or relatives’) to read those too? Or what’s your philosophy on what children read?
I would still recommend children read To Kill a Mockingbird with its themes of racism, growing pains of childhood, and wisdom still relevant today.
Children benefit from reading memoirs and biographies that may inspire them to pursue ambitions and dreams of their own that might not be encouraged by their families or culture.
Moving to your school years: what book did you read in high school and hated (or skipped reading at all) that you learned you loved later in life?
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby with its portrayal of the unattainable American Dream and the decadence and greed of 1920s during a time of prosperity that did not guarantee happiness.
What about the opposite way? One you loved in your teens, but realized you didn’t love it so much later on?
In my teens I loved tales of sea adventures including Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Nordoff and Hall’s Mutiny on the Bounty Trilogy. Now of course, I cannot stomach the thought of men hunting magnificent, sentient creatures like whales and recognize Melville for the misogynist he was.
Are there any books that you read while writing your debut that helped shape the direction you took your own book?
I had much to learn about the craft of writing so one of the many particularly helpful books was Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer.
Reading other memoirs such as Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur about the destructive power of secrets and the lyrical Abandon Me by Melissa Febos, in part about obsessive love, also inspired me.
What is a book you’ve read that you thought, Damn, I wish that was mine?
Untamed by Glennon Doyle because she writes of universal truths so plainly and with such humor.
What have you been reading / do you plan to read during your debut book tour?
I will continue to read biographies and memoir including Code Breaker and A Women of No Importance, as well as anything by Melissa Febos.
For relaxation, I will likely read anything by Tana French, the Irish mystery writer, or Radclyffe’s PMC medical romance series.
And, finally, I have to ask… I’m sorry. What’s next? But wait! Only use three words.
A romance novel (written with my partner).