Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Family Issues

By Joan F. Kaywell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
My Three Faces: The Writer, the Therapist, and the Man

Chris Crutcher


INTRODUCTION

Contributing to this project allows me to combine two areas of my life about which I am passionate. For 15 years I have been stealing the seeds for stories from the lives of the people with whom I work, careful, of course, to use only patterns and generalities, and to create the specifics in my imagination. I am in constant and thankful awe of the way in which my two lives intertwine: how the exploration of human pain and courage contributes to the richness of stories, and how writing those stories helps me uncover new perceptions of humanity, which I take back into my therapeutic work and into my life. I can't tell a good story without first considering the real-life truths of my chosen characters and circumstances.

There are other similarities between doing therapy with adolescents and writing stories about them. Both exist in some strange Neverland. As a writer of literature about adolescents I am the redheaded stepbrother of real writers, my product the bastard child of real literature. There is no real place for it in bookstores, no true home of its own in many libraries. No matter how lyrical my prose, how laser-like my presentation of a situation, it still represents a time in most adults' lives that we seem to want to remember selectively, a time whose importance we discount and therefore tend not to read about or revisit.

I think we often treat teenagers in the same way we treat their literature, though that may be putting the horse before the cart. Adults encounter adolescent love and call it "puppy love," or some other throwaway cliché that

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