Ethical bearings in an Inter-generational Auto/biography: writing in my mother's voice.
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"Beatrice Speaking" is an account of three years of my mother’s life (from 1945 to 1948). The narrative is written in the first-person voice of Beatrice, my mother (not, of course, her real name), and is framed by a prologue and epilogue in the first-person voice of one of her children (myself) in the present. I have struggled to find a name for the hybrid offspring that I have produced; intergenerational auto/biography is much closer than any of the alternatives. I want to explain the reason for my difficult decision to tell this story in the first-person narrating voice of Beatrice. To write in my mother’s voice raises ethical problems about appropriation and authenticity; more immediately, for years this was simply an impossibly presumptuous thing for me to do. Using the third-person ‘she’ was the only way to balance my role as writer and creator of the character Beatrice against my sense of intrusion into my mother’s private life. All the writing I did about her earlier life ("Inventing Beatrice") was done in this third-person voice. But when I came to the 1945–1948 period, I became stuck. I had writer’s block. During six months I slowly realised that I had only two choices: I could either use Beatrice’s own first-person voice (being honest and faithful to her letters) or else I would fall silent altogether. I chose the first option, to let Beatrice speak for herself, and started writing again. The biggest leap that this entailed was putting myself into her (Beatrice’s/my mother’s) moral space, living within it and accepting it at the same time as I profoundly rejected at least some of it for myself.