Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Allegra Huston's "Love Child"

Allegra Huston was born in London and raised in Ireland, Long Island, and Los Angeles. She has worked with Chatto & Windus publishers in London and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, where she was Editorial Director from 1990 to 1994. She has been a freelance writer and editor for more than ten years; her work has appeared in The Times, the Independent, the Tatler, and Harper's Bazaar (all in the UK), in French Vogue, and in the U.S. in People, the Santa Fean, and Mothering. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her six-year-old son, Rafa, and his father, Cisco Guevara.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Love Child: A Memoir of Family Lost and Found, and reported the following:
“I’m not sure when it happened: that Daddy became fallible.” It’s a big moment in Love Child, and it’s at the bottom of p. 99. I was about ten years old.

Daddy is John Huston, the legendary film director and hellraiser. I was introduced to him in a hotel room when I was four – soon after my mother was killed in a car crash – with the words, “This is your father.” I realized then, and in the following years, that there was something fishy about being introduced to your father, but I didn’t dare examine it. My mother was dead, and for three years after that I didn’t see my sister Anjelica; Daddy was the centerpoint of my universe. When I was twelve, I was told that in fact he wasn’t my father; someone else was: John Julius Norwich, the British historian. This did not come as good news. It felt like losing a father, rather than gaining one.

In the end, though, this new father didn’t change my relationship with Dad. We never discussed it; and I realized how generous he had been, to accept me and raise me as his own daughter. I was, as a child, always in awe of him – and that moment at which he became fallible in my eyes was also perhaps the moment he became human. Generosity of spirit is not a god’s characteristic; it’s human, and I needed to see him as human to see it.

Love Child is a story of a little girl’s world atomized by her mother’s sudden death; the chronicle of a fractured family; and an honest account of how I came to terms with the secrets in my family. It has a happy ending: the day all my family – my brothers and sisters through both fathers, and the one father who is still alive – came together on the bank of the Rio Grande for my son’s christening. That is the story I wanted to tell: of rising above old histories and secrets, and finding love in the family you have, whatever its shape. Seeing the humanity in everyone – as I do on p. 99 of Love Child – is what makes that possible.
Read an excerpt from Love Child, and learn more about the book and author at Allegra Huston's website.

--Marshal Zeringue