Would you pay $250 to feel human?

In Amber Dawn’s new book How Poetry Saved My Life is a poem called

“What’s My Mother F***ing Name.” In it, she describes how a client

had sex with her and then said, “Now I feel human again.”

At the time she only cared that he paid $250 an hour. But later she asked herself, “What would I pay to feel human again?”

Amber Dawn was a sex worker. Her poems are tough, funny and touching as she writes about her life in that profession and how people change the subject when the topic arises. It’s still taboo.

But not on the afternoon of Oct. 25 at the Vancouver Writers Fest.

Four authors presented their memoirs.

In Drunk Mom, Jowita Bydlowska describes how she started drinking after giving birth to her son.

With brutal honesty, Bydlowska describes her life of blackouts, endless hunger, and just-one-more-drink while dealing with motherhood, anxiety and depression. This is a book I just couldn’t stop reading. It has the intimacy of a diary and kept me awake all night.

In Projection Priscila Uppal describes her journey to Brazil to find the mother who left her when she was a child.

You may think the reunion between mother and daughter would be very emotional, but it wasn’t. Uppal came to realize that she didn’t love her mother, that she didn’t even like her. Projection is humourous, but it’s also provocative, particularly with regard to family relationships.

Nocturne by Helen Humphreys is a deeply haunting memoir. It takes the form of a letter to Humphreys’ brother, who died of cancer. She writes directly to him, laying bare their secrets and all the things they have shared.

On this afternoon at the Vancouver Writers Fest these four authors read and talk about their books. It’s touching because every book is personal and intense.

I asked, “Is it easier to write a memoir than fiction?”

It may be easier, Jowita Bydlowska answers, but the hard thing is dealing with the critics.

The moderator got in on the discussion: if you are a doctor in the Artic you can fix peoples wounds, and they are good to go. But what if you are injured with no doctor present? You have to put the scalpel against yourself.

And that’s what memoir writing is: putting the scalpel against yourself.

So, how much would you pay to feel human? Reading those books have the power to make us feel very human indeed.