Thursday, October 22, 2009

Diana Welch & Liz Welch's "The Kids Are All Right"

Liz Welch is an ASME award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Glamour, Inc., the New York Times Magazine and many other publications. Her sister, Diana Welch, is a writer based in Austin, Texas. A former reporter for the Austin Chronicle, she is currently a curator for Monofonus Press.

The sisters are also co-authors of The Kids Are All Right, a memoir in four voices in which they tell the story of losing both their parents at an early age from their own perspectives, as well as that of their brother Dan and their older sister Amanda.

They agreed to apply the “Page 99 Test” to their new book -- page 99 wound up being one of Liz's chapters -- and learned the following:
To set the scene, Liz, a 15-year-old sophomore, has started dating Paul Martino, a popular senior at Fox Lane High School. He knows her father died in a car accident two years earlier, but does not know that her mother, a well known soap opera actress, is ill with cancer.

From that moment on, I knew what it was like to be Paul Martino's girlfriend. It was bliss. When he smiled at me in the hallway, helium replaced blood in my veins. If he snuck a kiss, I was paralyzed. And everyone at school knew we were dating. At Fox Lane, I was Paul's girlfriend, not the daughter of a sick widow. I worked hard to keep those two identities separate. No one at home knew I was dating Paul. There was no point in telling anyone: Amanda thought Paul was an asshole--to her, all jocks were. And Mom had other things to think about. June, her character on Loving, was about to murder her husband Garth Slater, who kept her drunk so he could sneak into their daughter Lily's room at night to molest her. In the script, she kills Garth to protect Lily. While that may have been good for Lily, it was not good for us. June was being sent to an insane asylum which meant Mom was out of a job as of that spring.

Those last few lines sum up the tragi-comedy that was our life back in the early eighties. Handsome, investment banker father dies in mysterious car accident in 1982 leaving four children fatherless and his glamorous soap opera star wife, she soon finds out, 1.2 million dollars in debt. Then, exactly one month after he died, our mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It turns out our mother’s real life death -- slow, painful, brutal over the next three and a half years -- was not nearly as sensational as any of her daytime deaths. Morgan Fairchild shot her, as Eunice on Search for Tomorrow in the late seventies, and then she, playing Margo on The Edge of Night was bludgeoned with a fire poker in a who-dun-it story line that involved a cult leader, pornography and a sham marriage. Dying from colon cancer was dull in comparison.

But we don't know that she is going to die on page 99. At this point, we think she is going to be fine because she has to be: if she lost her battle with the big C, then the four of us would be orphans. And that was a story line none of us could fathom.
Learn more about the book and authors at the official The Kids Are All Right website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue