When we write our family history stories, it’s important to tell our tales from a place of empathy. Sometimes, we have to wait to share those stories. Regardless of whether they are personal memories or they belong to our ancestors, the pain can often get in the way of recalling an honest account. A story-line that tells a difficult truth but does not live in a place of anger or revenge is key to telling true narratives that will resonate with readers. It is this very quality that is demonstrated so profoundly in Bonnie Virag’s memoir, The Stovepipe.
I was first introduced to The Stovepipe because it takes place in my neighborhood. The author, Bonnie Virag was born in Simcoe, Ontario. She grew up in the 1940’s and 50’s in the rural area of Southern Ontario known as Norfolk County. At the age of four, Bonnie was removed from her mother’s care by the Children’s Aid Society along with her twin sister Betty and two sisters and a brother. Their lives would intersect throughout the next fourteen years, as they became permanent fixtures and collateral damage of the foster care system.
Bonnie’s healthy perspective with which she writes this book is a lesson to us as family history writers. Let Bonnie’s book be a wonderful example of how we can tell those painful stories.
This moving story of a young girl finding her way under very difficult circumstances; demonstrates the power of sisterly love and the will to survive with grace. Through this honest and stirring memoir, Bonnie not only draws from her own memories but also consults her sisters in the writing of this book and enlists the records of the Children’s Aid Society.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Bonnie at a local author’s fair. I have great respect for any writer who can turn a very difficult time in her life into a work of art shared with such poise.
I hope you pick up a copy of The Stovepipe or download it to your e-reader. I know you will not be disappointed. While Bonnie may have grew up in a small town this book is no small feat. Her story and writing has received national acclaim. The Stovepipe was awarded a Kirkus Star and designated as Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012.
There are many lessons in this memoir, resilience, family love and of course, let’s not forget how we must do better for the children caught in the foster care system. For the family history writer, learn to tell an emotional and painful story with compassion through Bonnie's example. Please read The Stovepipe.
Since the author's fair, I have been in contact with Bonnie and she has kindly agreed to an interview. We will talk with Bonnie about her process in writing her book. This interview will be an exclusive in our June newsletter of Storylines. In the meantime, be sure to sign up for our first issue of Storylines due to arrive in your mailbox early next week and grab a copy of The Stovepipeand give it read so you'll be ready for our interview next month.