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What Stories Should We Tell?

A Self-Reflection

By LalainaPublished 5 months ago 3 min read
Courtesy of Midjourney.

What stories are we allowed to tell? I would argue this question is as old as what constitutes literature and is especially provocative in our current socio-political climate. Everyone has a story inside them, but what stories are you allowed to tell? How far are you allowed to share them? With fiction, this is a complicated question. It can lead to angry fans who claim you did not portray a culture or gender correctly. It can lead to backlash from individuals who find an experience too narrow, even if it relates to your own experiences. However, creative nonfiction comes with its own problems as well. In some ways, the questions are more intense because nonfiction writers are bearers of truth. They discuss real people and real stories, which creates ramifications about everything they write. So, the ramifications don’t just land on them, but on other people as well. The truth is enough, but when is the truth too much? When do we hold back? When do we plow forward? What are willing to give up to have our stories told? The truth is not simple. It is complicated. But, sometimes a story just needs to be told. We decide what stories we are allowed to tell by deciding what is most important to us in our pursuits of the truth.

My family was raised to slip things under the rug. We did not tell our stories. Everything had to remain in the family, whether it was hurtful or not. Of course, that meant I never felt a compelling reason to write nonfiction stories. After all, it had taken me a long time just to talk about my family to a therapist, much less to anyone else. My own family sees an issue with my honesty, thinking it has no place in the world. However, those stories are a part of my identity.

My family is my entire life. They have shaped every part of me, both good and bad. They gave me stories to tell. However, I would never dream of hurting them. So, for a long time, the stories stayed inside me. However, I am a storyteller. I could not escape my stories and, despite my family’s apprehension, they were as much a part of me as them. I had a right to tell them as well.

So, how did I decide whether it I could tell this story? I thought about my audience and about closure. I thought about what my words would bring to the world. The truth was, the stories about my family are stories I am allowed to tell because it is a part of my journey to heal. Not being able to tell those stories for such a long time hurt me, kept me from reaching my full potential. Not being able to tell those stories made me hide behind fiction, avoiding nonfiction for its personal nature. It made me afraid, but telling those stories filled me with a sense of power.

So, ultimately, what stories are you allowed to tell? Well, the answer for that is the same as for what constitutes literature. There is no answer. You just have to decide what you are willing to do for the truth, what you are willing to sacrifice. Make yourself uncomfortable, but know that once a story is out there, you cannot take it back. Do not ruin the relationships that most matter to you, but trust yourself. You are the only one who can tell this story as it relates to yourself. Trust yourself. If a story needs to be told, it will find its way out one way or another.


About the Creator


She/Her. Writing Center Coordinator & Professor. Novelist. 29. Proud Latina.

I'm obsessed with my cat and fantasy fiction.

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