Life Advice



Ask Amy: Writers are encouraged to proceed ‘Bird by Bird’

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Don’t I have rights, here?

– Worried

Dear Worried: I’ve written two memoirs. In both cases, I shared excerpts with family members where they were named, inviting them to weigh in. I did this because the relationships were more important to me than the excavation of family history.

There were also cases where I named people but did not invite them to weigh in, because I didn’t care about the impact of my writing on the relationship.

You have the right to ask your family member to see sections involving you. If she refuses, or if you don’t like what you read later – you have the right to tell her so and to keep your distance. If the material is defamatory, you have the right to see her in court.

Dear Amy: I’m supporting your answer to “Moving On.”

My husband reluctantly visited his absentee dad on his father’s deathbed.

He got some information and history that helped him to understand everything that had happened around the time he was conceived.


He’s still not a fan, but he got some inner peace.

– Moved On

Dear Moved On: Your husband’s experience underscores something I learned long ago: When it comes to complex and painful family histories, total resolution is rarely in the cards, but getting partway there is a goal worth reaching for.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2022 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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