Joan Didion and her moving return to her homeland

His life seems like an adventure novel, like those voluminous ones from the 19th century, where action and constant movement are the norm. Elizabeth Scott was the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Joan Didion, and the writer remembered her story years later. As a pioneer in the territory of the original peoples, hers was not a peaceful life over tea.

“She was born in 1766, grew up on the Virginia and Carolina frontiers, married at sixteen an eighteen-year veteran of the Revolution and Cherokee expeditions named Benjamin Hardin IV, moved with him to Tennessee and Kentucky, and died on another border, in Oil Trough Bottom, a town located on the south bank of the White River, in what is now Arkansas but then belonged to Missouri. It was remembered of Elizabeth Scott Hardin that she used to hide in a cave with her children (it is said that there were eleven of them, although there are only records of eight) during the fights with the Indians, and that she was such a good swimmer that she could ford a river in full flood. with a baby in her arms. Either to defend her from her, or for her own reasons, her husband was said to have killed ten men, not counting English soldiers or Cherokee Indians.

Didion dedicated that little profile to his very distant relative at the beginning of his book where am i fromanchored in his native California, a place he referred to in more than one chronicle. It’s just that the West Coast was his main obsession, and in this book, in a hybrid format, he oscillates between personal memoirs, essays, and journalism. Original from 2003, it has just been published in Spanish via Random House, and it is already in our country.

As a leading author in the field of nonfiction, Didion narrated herself within the history of the “Golden State.” “I have lived in California most of my life. I learned to swim in the Sacramento and American rivers, before the dams. I learned to drive on the levees up and down the Sacramento river. And yet, in a sense, California has remained an impenetrable to me, an exhausting enigma, just as it is to many people who are from there. It worries us, we correct it and we revise it, we try without success to define our relationship with it and its relationship with the rest of the country ”.

In addition, it gives an account of certain places anchored in the cultural tradition of the State, such as the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, founded in 1872 and frequented by the city’s journalists. “They saw it as both a statement of ‘artsy’ or offbeat interests and a place to grab a beer and a sandwich after closing the first issue.”

It also narrates events made of blood, such as the Lakewood tragedy. “The bomb exploded on the front porch of a house near Lakewood High School between 3 and 3:30 am on February 12, 1993. It destroyed a column on the porch. He made holes in the stucco. He threw shrapnel at parked cars. One woman recalled that her husband was working the night shift at Rockwell and that she had been sleeping lightly as usual when the explosion woke her.”

Another moving episode -with which the book ends- is when he refers to the death of his mother in 2001. “My mother died on May 15, 2001, in Monterrey, two weeks before her ninety-first birthday. The previous afternoon I had spoken to her on the phone from New York and she had hung up on me in mid-sentence, a way of saying goodbye so characteristic of her – mainly intended for the caller to save money on what she still called ‘conference calls’. long distance’ – that it didn’t occur to me until the next morning, when my brother called me, that on that last occasion she might have been too weak to carry on the conversation. Or maybe not just too weak. Perhaps too aware of the importance that this particular farewell could have.

“The afternoon after my mother’s funeral, my brother and I distributed the few pieces of furniture she had left among her grandchildren: my brother’s three children and Quintana [la hija de Joan Didion]. Not much was left: for the past few years my mother had been systematically giving away what she had, returning Christmas presents and abandoning belongings. I don’t remember what Quintana’s cousins ​​Kelley, Steven and Lori got. I do remember what Quintana kept, because I have been seeing that furniture ever since in her apartment in New York. There was a carved teak trunk that had been in my parents’ bedroom during my childhood. There was a small table with carved edges from my grandmother. There was, among my mother’s clothes, an Italian angora cape that she had worn since my father gave it to her one Christmas in the late 1940s”.

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