My mother, meanwhile, all the time kept saying, “Write my true story. That’s all you have to do. Write my true story.” I kept saying, “No, that’s not fiction. I’m not writing biography.” Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself, and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone. What better gift can I give my mother than to finally sit down and listen to her entire story, hour after hour after hour? She’s very repetitive. This is hard work, listening to her say the same laments in her life over and over again, but this time asking for more details. Getting this story out, I realized, was a gift that she was giving me. And there was a gift I could give back to her, and it didn’t matter what happened to that book afterwards. If it didn’t sell a single copy, if it was panned, that whole time I spent writing it, getting to know my mother, getting to know myself, all of it was worth it. Nobody — no review, no place on a list — could take that away from me or make it more important than what it already was.