Monday, October 16, 2023

Q&A with Brittany Means




Brittany Means is the author of the new memoir Hell If We Don't Change Our Ways. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir?


A: There were a lot of difficult memories living in my head. Things I obsessed over and ruminated on. Writing the book was my way of processing these memories.


I also hoped that people would find language for their own experiences through my story, the way books did for me when I was younger.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: It was a joke in my family, whenever someone asked, "Where are we going?" for someone to respond, "To hell if we don't change our ways!" And I was also thinking about how generational trauma perpetuates. I watched people I love get hurt and then develop tendencies that then hurt other people.


So, to me, it was this joke I loved that also had a deeper meaning. We have to change our ways or we'll stay in this hell of hurting each other.


Q: The writer Kiese Laymon said of the book that its “lasting impact might be what it demands of the memoir genre. Brittany Means has, at once, created the most readable and the most psychologically rigorous book I've read in decades. I needed the reminder that art can do this.” What do you think of that assessment?


A: Mostly, I feel extremely honored. I really admire Kiese as a person and writer. He's someone with an amazing ability to write deftly through big ideas and emotions without losing the complexity. That's something I hope I can do in my own writing, so it feels really good that someone I look up to believes I accomplished that.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book?


A: Writing the book helped me make sense of some of the memories that were very loud and persistent in my head. In tandem with therapy, my support system, and healthier practices, the book helped me find peace.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Currently, I'm working on my second book, which is about stigmata and how health and mental health manifest in Christian communities. I'm also writing a TV show with my friend Rachel that's been a lot of fun.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I hope people will come away from the book understanding how complex abuse and trauma can be.


I want people to also think about how the events of the book might have been different if we all had access to livable wages, health and mental health care, and proper education about sex and healthy relationships.


My story is sadly not entirely unique. There are a lot of people out there struggling and suffering in a broken system, and it doesn't have to be this way.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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