I just moved back to Tucson and one of the things I've been looking forward to is the ability to attend the annual Pima Writers' Workshop. I've attended previous years and missed it. It's a little different this time because I don't have to listen as closely to the speeches about how to get an agent.
My favorite speaker of the day was Justin Torres, author of the semi-autobiographical novel We The Animals. His speech, Writing from Personal Experience, was about the dilemma many writers face when using material from their own lives in their fiction. While writing a story that so closely resembled his own difficult childhood, he found himself having to reconcile the value the book could have to a the world with the pain it could cause to his own family.
I can relate to this dilemma. While Monsoon Season is not strictly autobiographical, there are certainly bits of my life that my loved ones will find familiar. Torres spoke of the benefit of using the fiction label to mask autobiography - that his readers will never really know which parts of his book are from reality and which are from his imagination. In this way, he conveys "emotional truth without factual constraint."
Perhaps that is what all good fiction does.