“I write as though I’m writing about someone else. ‘I’ is an invention to prove we exist. ‘I’ is the line drawn through the fabric of time. ‘I’ imposes meaning on random events. ‘I’ implies significance,” (Thanh 16).
Yasuko Thanh’s memoir follows her early childhood in Victoria, B.C as an honour role student and embracer of evangelical religion, her teenage years as a sex worker where she eventually fell in love with her pimp and experienced a number of traumatic incidents in her work, to motherhood and a complicated marriage to, eventually, an award-winning author. Thanh’s memoir offers reflections back on why she was drawn into this life, whether it had to do with her desire for love that she didn’t receive from her strict parents and the depths she’d go to find it, or rather there was another reason that could only be answered years down the road.
Mistakes To Run With covers a number of different events in Thanh’s life and it’s truly remarkable to read about all she went through at such a young age to the woman she is now. Parts of it are beautifully written and Thanh is incredibly thorough as she looks back to herself as a child, a teenager, a new mother who loves her children fiercely, and her beginnings as an author. I really enjoyed following Thanh on this journey of why she loves so deeply and why she has such a need to be loved and thought it was an interesting theme to use for a memoir that touches on such dark topics.
That being said, the memoir was definitely disjointed at times, jumping between time and places so that I was shocked when only a year had passed in Thanh’s life. Thanh does mention in the memoir that she generally writes like this, and this is the first thing I’ve read by her so I was glad to know this is just how she writes, but it isn’t a style that I’m necessarily fond of for myself as I found myself confused a lot of the times for where Thanh was at which moments of her life.
That being said, Mistakes To Run With is an honest, real, and painful memoir to read but so incredibly necessary. I’m in awe of Thanh’s honesty and willingness to bare herself onto the page so openly and think this is a must-read memoir!
Publication: April 2 2019
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Pages: 262 pages (Paperback)
Source: Owned (GritLit Festival 2019)
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Canadian, Mental Health
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.5
Mistakes to Run With chronicles the turbulent life of Yasuko Thanh, from early childhood in the closest thing Victoria, BC, has to a slum to teen years as a sex worker and, finally, to her emergence as an award-winning author. As a child, Thanh embraced evangelical religion, only to rebel against it and her equally rigid parents, cutting herself, smoking, and shoplifting. At fifteen, the honour-roll runaway develops a taste for drugs and alcohol. After a stint in jail at sixteen, feeling utterly abandoned by her family, school, and society, Thanh meets the man who would become her pimp and falls in love.
The next chapter of her life takes Thanh to the streets of Vancouver, where she endures beatings, arrests, crack cocaine, and an unwanted pregnancy. The act of writing ultimately becomes a solace from her suffering. Leaving the sex trade, but refusing to settle on any one thing, Thanh forges a new life for herself, from dealing drugs in four languages to motherhood and a complicated marriage, and emerges as a successful writer.
But even as publication and awards bolster her, she remains haunted by her past.